Petronel Nieuwoudt founded the Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary in 2001 and is one of the few people worldwide who has specialised in the care of orphaned and injured rhino.
Growing up in Limpopo and coming from a background in the South African Police’s Endangered Species Protection Unit where she held the rank of Captain Petronel’s love of nature has led to a life time of learning.
Orphaned Rhino babies arrive at the sanctuary traumatised and very frightened. They are exhausted and in need of nutrients and specific care. It is at this point where Petronel’s experience is undeniable, and without it, the stories we can tell would be very different. From the moment a baby arrives he or she becomes the focus. Petronel seems to possess an insight into what each of these babies needs most, and they appear to sense it. It is not unusual to find her tending to a new calf all hours of the day and night.
The Faculty of Veterinary Science of the University of Pretoria, in collaboration with SANParks, Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary, Kaapse Valley Conservancy and Mpumalanga Parks have initiated a research project to determine how rearing conditions and environment during rehabilitation affects subsequent adaptation of orphan rhinos once they are released into the wild.
The research team, with Dr María Fàbregas as a principal investigator, consists of a number of specialists in several disciplines, including behavioural ecology, animal welfare and physiology.
This study, funded by Groupelephant.com, will help to develop best practices to improve rhino orphan rehabilitation and release, thus reducing the risks of failure and increasing viable wild populations with good reproductive potential.
Care For Wild enlists the help of veterinarians, nutritionists and ecologists as well as other professionals to ensure that the rhino are successfully rehabilitated so that they can be released back into the natural habitat that is provided for them.
All of the Rhino at Care For Wild are dehorned and protected by a qualified security team that consists of monitors, K9 and Equine units and an armed protection unit. All are on duty permanently.