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South Africa's Rhino Orphanage helps keep baby rhinos safe from hunters

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 — Hunters in South Africa are killing rhinos. Killing rhinos is against the law. Hunters who break the law are called poachers. The shootings leave behind baby rhinos who have lost their mothers.

Many baby rhinos probably die. The lucky ones end up at The Rhino Orphanage.

Acting Like A Mother Rhino

Workers there act like mothers for the scared baby rhinos. They feed, walk and comfort them until they are ready to return to the wild. The rhinos learn to recognize voices, sleep in a stable and eat a milk substitute. They roll in the mud and play with each other and their human minders. The humans try not to get knocked over by these big, active babies.

The orphanage is very careful about keeping the rhinos safe. It wants to protect its rhinos from poachers. It keeps out all but selected visitors. It also does not tell its exact location. They say only that it is near the Entabeni wildlife park. The park is about a three-hour drive north of Johannesburg.

"These rhinos would be dead if there weren't a place to send them," Gabriela Benavides said. She is a veterinarian at the orphanage.

Some People Want Rhino Horns

Benavides spoke while three rhinos named Faith, Lunga and Matthew walked and slurped water from containers. The rhinos were all younger than 1 year old. They approached visitors behind a low wooden fence. The rhinos let people stroke and touch the rough skin on their heads.

Most of the world's rhinos live in South Africa. Hunters are a serious problem. They killed more than 1,200 of the country's rhinos in 2014. They are killing many more of them this year, too.

The poachers kill the rhinos because some people in Asia want their horns. These people believe the horns can be ground up and used as medicine. There is no scientific proof that the horns work as medicine.

Back To The Wild

South Africa rescued 16 rhino orphans in 2014. A dozen were placed with experts to care for them. Four others were placed with female rhinos in homes run by the government, said Edna Molewa. She is a government official. The females act as mothers, Molewa said.

Molewa said eventually the rhinos should go back to the wild to live.

The Rhino Orphanage was started in 2012. The mothers of most rhinos at the orphanage were shot. The orphanage says it has raised and released nine rhinos back into the wild. Workers at the orphanage do not say how many rhinos are there. No signs show where The Rhino Orphanage is. All these steps are taken to protect the rhinos.

Stopping The Poachers

Poachers will "go for any little bit" of horn said Dex Kotze. The will even go after young rhinos, Kotze said. Kotze is part of a group that is in charge of the orphanage. Kotze said it costs about $32,000 a month to run the orphanage. Several similar orphanages have opened elsewhere in South Africa, he said.

On one occasion, poachers were on their way to the orphanage. They did not know that the government knew their plan. A secret government agent had become part of their group. The suspects were arrested, Benavides said.

A Secret Orphanage

International workers help with the rhinos. They turn off the location settings on their phones while they are at the orphanage. They do not post pictures online. The workers do not want to give away where the orphanage was located.

The rhinos do not have much contact with humans. It helps for when they are returned to the wild. The rhinos go back to the wild when they are 2 or 3 years old. It is the age at which they would usually become independent.

Benavides said it was rewarding to help rhino orphans. It also worries her. "You don't know what's going to happen to them when you finally let them go," she said.

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Anchor 2: Central Idea

What is the MAIN idea of the article?


Most of the world's rhinos live in South Africa, but they are in danger from hunters there who want to kill rhinos for their valuable horns.


The Rhino Orphanage rescues and protects baby rhinos until they can return to the wild because hunters killed their mothers.


Since it started, The Rhino Orphanage has raised and released nine rhinos baby into the wild.


The Rhino Orphanage has had many volunteers from different countries who want to help protect baby rhinos from hunters.

Anchor 2: Central Idea

Which of the following sentences is MOST important to include in a summary of the article?


The rhinos learn to recognize voices, sleep in a stable and eat a milk substitute.


The rhinos let people stroke and touch the rough skin on their heads.


The poachers kill the rhinos because some people in Asia want their horns.


South Africa rescued 16 rhino orphans in 2014.

Anchor 5: Text Structure

Overall, the article is organized around which of the following?


an event


a place


an orphaned rhino


a person

Anchor 5: Text Structure

How is the section "Some People Want Rhino Horns" organized?


The author describes what the orphanage is like using an example, then gives background information on the killing of rhinos.


The author explains how the experts take care of the rhinos at the orphanage, then describes why so many rhinos live in South Africa.


The author provides details on the rhinos that live in the orphanage, then explains how the orphanage is solving the problem of hunting.


The author gives an expert opinion on the health of the rhinos at the orphanage, and then explains how rhino horn is a good medicine.


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