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SCIENCE
 

South African Rhino Orphanage cares for victims of poachers

In this photo taken June 28, 2014, and supplied by a board director of The Rhino Orphanage, a baby rhino runs in the bush at the facility, which is near a lodge at the Entabeni Safari Conservancy in the northern part of South Africa.
In this photo taken June 28, 2014, and supplied by a board director of The Rhino Orphanage, a baby rhino runs in the bush at the facility, which is near a lodge at the Entabeni Safari Conservancy in the northern part of South Africa. Dex Kotze/The Rhino Orphanage via AP

ENTABENI SAFARI CONSERVANCY, South Africa — They are the most vulnerable victims of South Africa's rhino poaching scourge, the baby rhinos that survive the shooting deaths of their mothers.

Many probably die of dehydration or other perils in the wild, but some lucky ones end up at The Rhino Orphanage, where workers become mothers to the traumatized young ones, feeding, walking and comforting them until they are ready to return to the bush. They learn to recognize voices, sleep in a stable, feed on a milk substitute, roll in the mud and play with each other and their human minders, who try not to get knocked over by these big, rambunctious babies.

The orphanage takes extreme measures to protect its rhinos from poachers, barring all but selected visitors and not advertising its exact location. Managers say only that it is near a golf and safari resort at the Entabeni wildlife park in Limpopo province, about a three-hour drive north of Johannesburg.

"These rhinos would be dead if there weren't a place to send them," Gabriela Benavides, a Mexican veterinarian at the orphanage, told The Associated Press.

Benavides spoke at an enclosure where three rhinos named Faith, Lunga and Matthew, all less than 1 year old, lounged, trotted and slurped water from containers. The rhinos approached visitors behind a low wooden barrier, allowing themselves to be touched and stroked on the rough skin of their heads.

South Africa, home to most of the world's rhinos, has been under heavy pressure from poachers who killed more than 1,200 of the country's rhinos in 2014 and are killing them at a high rate this year to meet rising demand for their horns in parts of Asia. Consumers believe rhino horn, which is ground into powder, has medicinal benefits, but there is no scientific evidence to support that. The horn is made of keratin, a protein also found in human fingernails.

South Africa's national parks service rescued 16 rhino orphans in 2014; a dozen were put in specialist care and four were placed with surrogate mothers in state-run enclosures, Edna Molewa, minister of environmental affairs, said in May.

"The ultimate aim is for the orphans to be integrated back into a normally functioning breeding population," Molewa said.

The mothers of most rhinos at the orphanage were shot, though one young rhino's mother died in a fight with another rhino. Poachers with machetes hacked another baby rhino more than two dozen times as it stayed near the body of its mother, but it recovered at the orphanage.

Founded in 2012, The Rhino Orphanage says it has successfully raised and released nine rhinos back into the wild. Because of security concerns, the staff do not say how many rhinos are at the facility, which has no identifying signs at the entrance.

Poachers will "go for any little bit" of horn, even from a baby rhino whose horns are emerging, said Dex Kotze, a board director of the non-profit orphanage. He said it can cost roughly $32,000 a month to maintain the orphanage, and that several similar centers have started operating elsewhere in South Africa.

On one occasion, poachers were on their way to the orphanage but their gang had been infiltrated by an undercover agent from South African intelligence and the suspects were arrested, according to Benavides, the vet.

International interns who have assisted with the rhinos turned off phone and camera location settings and did not post photographs or video onto social media websites while at the orphanage for fear of giving away its whereabouts, said Fortunate Phaka, project leader of the group called Youth 4 African Wildlife.

"We try to keep it as secret as possible while at the same time raising awareness," Phaka said. "It's kind of hard trying to raise money for something people are not allowed to see."

Limited human contact with the rhinos also assists in their return to the wild, which happens when they are 2 or 3 years old, the age at which they would usually become independent.

Benavides said it was rewarding to rehabilitate rhino orphans, but also stressful because, "you don't know what's going to happen to them when you finally let them go."

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1
Anchor 2: Central Idea

Which of the following BEST explains the two central ideas of the article?

A

Poachers in South Africa have been aggressively killing rhinos for their horn, coveted for its medicinal benefits; at the Rhino Orphanage, most of the baby rhinos have mothers that were shot or they were injured at the hands of poachers.

B

Poachers in South Africa have been aggressively killing rhinos for their horn, coveted for its medicinal benefits; the killings of rhinos leave young babies vulnerable and unprotected from poachers desperate for even a small piece of horn.

C

The Rhino Orphanage in South Africa rescues and cares for baby rhinos whose mothers have been killed at a high rate by poachers for their lucrative horns; to protect from aggressive poachers, the orphanage keeps its location a secret, while they raise the babies to ultimately be released into the wild.

D

The Rhino Orphanage in South Africa rescues and cares for baby rhinos whose mothers have been killed at a high rate by poachers for their lucrative horns; limited human contact with the rhinos is critical for preparing them to return to the wild when they are 2 or 3 years old.

2
Anchor 2: Central Idea

Which of the following sentences would be MOST appropriate to include in an objective summary of the article?

A

It is likely that The Rhino Orphanage will have an increase in baby rhinos because of the rising rate of rhinos slaughtered by poachers.

B

Because of the importance of maintaining its secrecy to protect from poachers, it is unlikely The Rhino Orphanage will receive needed donations.

C

Despite nearly 1,200 rhinos being killed by poachers in 2014, South Africa's national parks service only rescued 16 rhino orphans that year.

D

The Rhino Orphanage has successfully raised and released nine rhinos back into the wild since it opened its doors.

3
Anchor 5: Text Structure

Review the first two paragraphs of the article.

Which of the following BEST describes the structure of the two introductory paragraphs?

A

an engaging anecdote to hook the reader

B

a substantiated argument against poaching

C

a profile of a heart-rending problem and a hopeful solution

D

a sympathetic prediction about the outcome of orphaned baby rhinos

4
Anchor 5: Text Structure

Read the closing paragraph of the article.

Benavides said it was rewarding to rehabilitate rhino orphans, but also stressful because, "you don't know what's going to happen to them when you finally let them go."

How does the author use this paragraph to conclude the article?

A

He suggests that aspects of the problem of poaching remained unresolved.

B

He predicts the future of the baby rhinos released into the wild.

C

He summarizes the personal gains of working at The Rhino Orphanage.

D

He compares the successes of The Rhino Orphanage to its shortcomings.

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