On the evening of Monday 20th February, our field project partner Fundimvelo Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage was targeted by a gang of seven poachers.
The gang subjected the rhino care workers to a horrific attack before turning their attention to the rhinos. Unfortunately two of the rhino orphans were left dead with their horns removed.
This is not just a crime of rhino poaching, this is an attack on the civil liberties of law abiding, caring conservationists. Our thoughts go out to the team we have got to know well over the years. We can only imagine the stress and heartache they are feeling.
Helping Rhinos will continue to work with the Fundimvelo Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage as they come to terms with the horrors of Monday night.
If you would like to show your support for the team at the orphanage you can make a donation to help with the care of the remaining rhino babies and to help upgrade security, please give what you can by hitting the below button.
We ask that you join us in respecting the privacy of the team at the orphanage at this difficult and traumatic time.
Please use the hashtag #SupportThulaThula
This announcememnt has been made with the approval of the team at Fundimvelo Thula Thula Rhino orphanage.
UPDATE - evening of 22nd Feb
Fundimevelo Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage manager Karen Trendler has given a Facebook Live interview to respected journalist and rhino ambassador Bonne de Bod. You can wath this interview on Bonne's Facebook page here.
The two rhinos murdered by the poachers - female Gugu and male Impy were just a week away from being dehorned and moving to the next phase of their release back to the wild.
The poaching gang held the orphanage security guard hostage for two hours before attacking the carer team and Gugu and Impy.
It is being reported that two of the poaching gang have been arrested, but we await confirmation of this.
UPDATE - morning of 23rd Feb
The management of the Fundimvelo Thula Thula Rhino Orphange have the following message to everyone who has supported them, both financially and emotionally since the horrors of Monday night:
Good morning to all our followers. It has been a relatively calm evening at the orphanage. The team is still a understandably under a lot of stress, but are showing amazing resilience and unwavering dedication to seamlessly care for the remaining orphans. All the babies are doing well, including chubby little Charlie and our ever vigilant, Duma. We are humbled by all the messages of support as well as donations that have been streaming in from all over the world. Again, if we are slow to respond, please be patient... we will get there.
Our management team and security consultants have been working around the clock to discuss extra security measures and support authorities with the ongoing investigation. In the coming weeks we will keep all our followers informed of the situation.
Let's all stand strong, calm and united in the face of this tragedy.?
Rhino hugs - Team TTRO
UPDATE - 27th February
South African Police (SAPS) arrested two suspects who were due in court on Friday 24th, charged with illegal possession of a firearm. We await further information from official resources, but in the meantime we have been assured that the investigation to the incident is ongoing and and that SAPS are following up on every lead. We are in daily contact with the team on the ground at the orphanage and will provide further updates when we have confirmed updates.
In the meantime, thank you for your support. Everyone involved has been overwhelmed by the kind messages and generous donations.
UPDATE - 5th March
The following update has been shared by Karen Trendler,m daya to day Ops manage at the orphanage:
The team at FFTRO would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to the investigating teams and officers for their ongoing commitment to the investigations into the horrific incident where our team were assaulted and two of our rhino poached.
Whilst the investigations have been gruelling and intense, every day there are new developments and more information coming to light (some very scary and chilling) with pieces of the puzzle falling into place ( and some which may never fit or be found )
There has been a constant stream of investigators, detectives and different teams of specialists in and out, polygraphs, forensics and multitudes of questions and still not enough answers.
Due to the sensitivity of ongoing investigations, as well as to ensure the safety and protection of the team and animals, we are giving out very little information.
It is not until you have been in the middle of all of this, that you even begin to realise the complexity of the processes and how easily media (social and other) speculation and misinformation - no matter how well intentioned, can jeopardise an investigation and put those on the ground at risk.
Our team have been and are going through a tough time ( brave and amazing as they are). Trauma affects everyone differently and is very personal - please respect and be sensitive to this.