How a nine year old scooped a major conservation award

Hunter Mitchell, Aquila Animal and Rescue Centre’s (ARC) Ambassador, has scooped the “Visionary Wildlife Warrior for 2016” award of the Steve Irwin Wildlife Warrior Foundation in Australia.

Rhino2Nine year old Hunter Mitchell was so inspired by the drama that played out at the Aquila Private Game Reserve in the Western Cape South Africa in the early hours of 31 December 2015, when a rhino calf was born, abandoned by its mother, and subsequently rescued by animal welfare staff at the reserve, that he set about single-handedly raising R75 000 to assist in hand-rearing the calf.

The calf, which has been named “Osita” which means “from today onwards it will be better”, is now a strapping youngster weighing in at 600 kilograms and standing 1.4 meters tall. Osita has adapted well to its surroundings with the help of a goat animal companion called “Bokkie”, which was introduced to teach the rhino calf how to graze. Bokkie has also helped to reduce human interaction so that Osita can eventually be released back into the wild. Osita, Bokkie and a human carer spend every hour of the day together, and are often seen on their twice-daily walks through the reserve.

Baby rhino may 2012 kariega game reserveHunter frequently visits Osita and lends a hand with mud baths, feeding and mucking out of the boma, the protected area where Osita currently lives.

Together with rhino carer, Divan Grobler, and with the blessing of A.R.C and Rhino Art (an NGO focussed on the international education of children), Hunter has visited many schools in the Western Cape area, raising awareness about rhino conservation. And with its positive outcome, Osita’s story has become a symbol of hope for the conservation of rhinos in Africa.

Hunter and his parents have been invited to attend the “Visionary Wildlife Warrior for 2016” Gala Event in Brisbane to receive his award at the end of the month. Unfortunately funds are an issue and A.R.C. together with Rhino Art are appealing to the public to assist in getting this little wildlife warrior across the ocean to collect his award. They are looking to raise around R80 000 to send Hunter, his mom and Grobler across to Australia, with the view of Hunter and Grobler conducting talks about rhino conservation at various schools in the Australian city and surrounds.

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