Tragically, The Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage Forced To Shut Down After It Was Attacked By Poachers

Sadly, The Fundimvelo Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage (FTTRO) has shut its doors. The orphanage was unable to recover after an exceptionally brutal poaching attack in February, which left rhinos dead, caregivers severely beaten and one young woman sexually assaulted, The Rhino Orphanage issued a statement early Monday saying that it is in the process of closing down.

The news, that WAN learned from SAPeople, is bittersweet because while it is heartbreaking that Karen Trendler’s orphanage will close, we take some solace knowing that the remaining rhinos, along with their caretakers, will stay together in safer surroundings.

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“Our supporters made donations in good faith to support the care of rhino orphans and we will ensure that their donations are still used for that purpose,” said Yvette Taylor from Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization (LAEO), which manages the facility.

“The animals have now all been moved together with their handlers to ensure continuity of care and all the rhino calves, as well as Charlie, the hippo, are doing well and have settled in their new surroundings,” she assured.

FTTRO has reportedly “made arrangements for the remainder of their donated funds to be channeled to the facilities who have taken over the care of the rhino calves.”

In the aftermath of the appalling attack, according to SAPeople, the focus of management was “on the immediate safety of the staff, volunteers and remaining animals on site, as well as providing support for the police and security experts investigating the incident.”

To keep the remaining rhinos and staff safe, LAEO directors moved them to a different location; also giving them the opportunity to recover from the trauma that was experienced by everyone. During this time, management conducted a series of independent security assessments and considered the findings of the criminal investigation.

“It is Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization’s responsibility to ensure that we meticulously weigh up all the factors of the investigation and security reports,” said Taylor at the time. “Our focus is ensuring that the facility is safe for both people and animals, managed according to best practice animal rehabilitation protocols, and is sustainable.”

Unfortunately, after reviewing the results of the reports and acknowledging the potential for ongoing and critical security challenges, as well as consulting with security experts, anti-poaching professionals and senior police officers, the LAEO Board of Directors decided it was time to permanently close the orphanage that had saved so many rhinos over the years.

According to the decision-makers, the “additional cost to adequately secure the facility in the long-term proved prohibitive and impacted on the sustainability of the facility.”

The horrific events that transpired on the evening of February 20th, 2017, when five criminals descended upon the once tranquil rhino sanctuary, was devastatingly the beginning of the end for the orphanage.


Perhaps this is the extreme wake-up call needed for everyone to understand how dangerous, unruly and catastrophic the rhino poaching industry in South Africa is; and that serious actions must be taken to end it once and for all!

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