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the rhino orphanage story

The story of The Rhino Orphanage starts with Arrie van Deventer. Early one morning in 2012, Arrie received an urgent phone call from one of his neighbours. Greatly distressed, the neighbour informed Arrie that two female rhinos, as well as a young baby rhino, had been shot only 400 metres from his house. 

Both female rhinos that the poachers had killed had calves. The younger of two rhino calves lay next to its mother, both brutally slain. The slightly older rhino calf was running around in terror on the farm. The neighbour asked whether Arrie could organise a helicopter that could assist with locating the orphaned rhino. They eventually managed to corral the baby rhino and kept it safe until something could be done regarding its welfare.


Every time you hear that sound, it cuts through your soul. It’s like a knife that goes through your heart. To think that another little baby rhino is without a mother… another wonderful animal that got killed. We are one step closer to the extinction of one of the proudest and most wonderful species on this planet. 

Arrie van Deventer (Founder)


The following morning, Arrie phoned anyone and everyone he knew to find out where he could send the orphaned baby rhino for appropriate shelter and care. He assumed that there were facilities all over South Africa which looked after orphaned rhinos and tried in vain to locate a wildlife authority that might be able to help. 

Despite all we see in newspapers and on TV regarding rhino poaching and dwindling rhino populations, Arrie discovered that in 2012 there was little – or nothing – written about the fate of the orphaned rhino calves.

Although Arrie had been in lengthy discussions regarding rhino orphans with many conservation companies, no permanent solution had yet been secured. On hearing that there were no facilities for rhino orphans, Arrie simply said, “Don’t worry. You’ve got one. I’ll build one.” And that was that. Arrie committed to building the World’s first Rhino orphanage in front of the world press, and was passionately dedicated to the project and cause.

Arrie flew in experts from various fields who could advise him on how best to construct the orphanage. As it turns out, nobody knew what a rhino orphanage should look like. – no one had ever built one before! After trawling literature and getting abundant advice from rehabilitation specialists, the plans for the orphanage evolved. It wasn’t easy, and though they got lots of counsel along the way – they constantly had to work out improved ways of executing what needed to be done.

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From the beginning, money was the biggest challenge. It takes substantial capital to set up a wildlife sanctuary of any kind – especially a rhino orphanage. It costs even more to keep such a facility running. Funding is by far the biggest obstacle regarding the welfare of baby rhinos orphans – which is why there’s always a need for ongoing sponsorship and financial support. 

While there is a great sense of urgent action required to save this critically endangered species, many people worldwide remain oblivious of the fact that we’re on the verge of losing an entire species. Thanks to the tireless work of Arrie, his team, and other organisations doing similar work, the word is slowly reaching the ears of people who may wish to contribute, make a difference, and even change policies that can further safeguard the rhino species.

Arrie van Deventer has always had a great love for nature, and he was basically born in the bush. Before retiring he attended school and university in the city and taught history for many years. When he retired from teaching, Arrie finally had time to return to his passion: wildlife, the bush, and nature conservation. He is a gift and an asset to South Africa and its precious wildlife.

our mission

To rescue, raise, rehabilitate and release orphaned rhinos so that the species can survive extinction.
To create an environment where orphaned rhinos are safe from poachers.
To ensure that all rhinos within the orphanage receive the proper treatment, care, and love they deserve.
To never commercialise or expose the rhinos for any profit or gain.
To continue to educate the public about poaching, the plight of the rhinos and to keep them informed on the progress of the rhino orphans.
To properly train all people and volunteers who work with the rhinos in our centre.
To ensure that all human contact is kept to an absolute minimum so that the rhinos can successfully be released back into the wild.

To act swiftly to combat poaching and continue the fight on behalf of these remarkable animals who cannot fight for themselves.

the rhino orphanage team

We couldn’t have the impact we do without the incredible people who have chosen to work beside us to save and restore safety to the rhino.


If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together.

African Proverb.



Arrie van Deventer

Founder | Managing Director

Marietjie van Deventer

Co-founder | Finance, Procurement & HR

Yolande van der Merwe

Rhino Manager

Rhino Carers

Leandi Bezuidenhout

Larize Nel

Sarah Fox


Dr Pierre Bester

Centre Maintenance

Dick Motshegoa

Special mention must be made of two special groups that contribute hugely to the running and safety of The Rhino Orphanage. The first is the rotating team of volunteers who give their time and devotion to aid our cause. The second is our internal security and anti-poaching team. For the sake of their safety, they must remain anonymous. We’re ever grateful to them for the dedication they show to the rhinos and to our rescue centre. They perform highly demanding work and often operate under extremely dangerous circumstances.

our board of directors

Arrie van Deventer

Founder | Managing Director

Arrie was driven to establish and manage The Rhino Orphanage – the World’s first dedicated rhino orphanage – after witnessing a poaching incident in 2012 which left a rhino calf without its mother. 

A lifetime of unconditional love for all animals, coupled with an urgency to protect a critically endangered species, are the impetuses behind his tireless work in wildlife conservation. 

Countless contributions from kind-hearted and generous people from all over the world helped Arrie to establish the rhino orphanage, and he remains thankful for the ongoing help and support. Without the support and help of other people who also care about rhinos, he would not have the privilege of witnessing battered baby rhinos grow to become healed and healthy adult rhinos.

" Please care. We cannot lose an iconic species – Not on our watch! "

" South Africa risks to lose rhinos in the wild in our lifetime. Is that the legacy we would like for our future generations? "

Dex Kotze


As a businessman and passionate wildlife photographer, Dex has been involved in conservation of endangered wildlife since 2010, and has served as a member of The Rhino Orphanage’s Board of Directors since 2013. The expertise, experience and networks that Dex brings contributes greatly to the diverse needs of The Rhino Orphanage.

Deeply disturbed by the rhino poaching pandemic which has escalated at an alarming rate since 2008, Dex remains determined to do whatever he can to prevent the extermination of rhinos.

Dex’s relationship with The Rhino Orphanage was forged in 2012 when he founded an initiative whereby international students participated in a paid-for conservation internship. 

The internship employed the power of film and social media to highlight the poaching crisis in Africa and underscore the irrational demand for rhino horn in Asia. The success of this inaugural internship initiative led to Dex formally establish an NGO, Youth 4 African Wildlife (Y4AW). Conservation interns at Y4AW continue to annually create short documentaries that focus on conservation, The Rhino Orphanage, and the plight of rhinos in general. 

Dex is dedicated to raising funds and awareness for South Africa’s endangered wildlife – rhinos, elephants and lions in particular. Infuriated by the South African government’s inertia regarding the rhino poaching crisis, Dex is committed to working alongside Arrie van Deventer and the team at The Rhino Orphanage. While he’s experienced the heart-wrenching moment when a rhino calf arrives at the facility, he’s also witnessed the joy of seeing a rhino orphan being released and thriving in the wild.

Dex has harnessed his business networks to raise vital funds for elephant and rhino conservation, whereby donors can experience conservation missions first-hand. The scope of these projects includes fitting GPS collars on 28 elephants, translocating rhinos to safe havens in Botswana, and translocating small elephant herds. These participatory missions have also established international ambassadors for endangered wildlife. Furthermore, Dex was instrumental in facilitating global marches in 142 countries from 2014 to 2016 to raise awareness of illegal wildlife trafficking in ivory and rhino horn. The message reached over 500 million people via multimedia networks.

Charl van der Merwe

Charl has served The Rhino Orphanage in the capacity of attorney of record on a pro-bono basis since its inception. His dedication to the cause led to him being invited to join The Rhino Orphanage’s Board of Directors in 2013. 

Charl’s love for rhinos was sparked when he visited the Khama Rhino Sanctuary with his mother as a young boy. He believes strongly in the cause of preserving South Africa’s rhino populations so that future generations will be able to see them in the wild. By giving his time and expertise as a board member, Charl contributes greatly to the welfare of the orphaned rhinos.

Charl feels honoured to serve on the board of directors and work with a team of wonderful people who are all passionate about rhino conservation, in particularly orphaned calves.

Ever amazed at what’s been achieved so far, he’s observed first-hand how rescuing and rehabilitating rhino orphans has altered the fate of not only individual rhinos, but the fate of entire rhino populations as well. He’s touched by the support received from the public. His metaphor is that The Rhino Orphanage is the Superhero, and the public the Superpower.

" Everybody, and every action, can make a difference when it comes to the conservation of our rhino orphans. "

Dr Pierre Bester

Doctor of Veterinary Medicine

Since its inception, Dr Pierre Bester has been the attendant vet at The Rhino Orphanage. As a Board Member, he brings vital veterinary experience, insight, and advice that’s required for the overall health and well-being of the baby rhinos at The Rhino Orphanage. 

He began his career in Veterinary Science in Bela-Bela in 1991, which coincided with the boom of the game industry. From the beginning, the scope of his work in the mixed animal practice in the Limpopo Province included the immobilisation, treatment, and translocation of African wildlife, including rhino and elephants. He’s been involved with the immobilization and translocation of thousands of rhinos, as well as countless other species.

Dr Bester embraces the privilege of working alongside the team of passionate people at The Rhino Orphanage. He’s quick to acknowledge that the strength of the fraternity lies in each member’s unique outlook on life, frame of reference, ideas and various approaches which all work in concert towards a common goal.

" Guard it. Guard the Earth. Although we’re running against the wind regarding rhino poaching and conservation, we won’t stop. "

Pete Richardson

Pete has been a board member of The Rhino Orphanage since 2013 and assisted in raising much-needed funds after it was established. 

Greatly moved by Arrie van Deventer’s reaction to the devastation of poaching, Pete was galvanized to take action and has been a great asset to The Rhino Orphanage.

Based near The Rhino Orphanage when Arrie initially had the idea to build the world’s first rhino orphanage, Pete committed to raise as much money as possible so that the rhino orphanage facility could physically be built. The expertise, enthusiasm and experience he brings as a businessman, salesman and impassioned master-of-persuasion is of immeasurable value to The Rhino Orphanage.

No stranger to the rollercoaster of emotions that accompanies The Rhino Orphanage’s work, Pete remains entirely committed to the battle to save baby rhinos and stop barbaric poaching.  

" If you own or run a business and want to partner with the finest, most dedicated, successful animal charity on the planet, now is the time to get involved with our incredible cause. "

Tim Abbott

Tim holds a BSC Honours in Plant and Animal Ecology, and was driven to get involved with The Rhino Orphanage when he read that the rate of rhino poaching would imminently lead to the extinction of rhinos in Africa. 

In his capacity as CEO of BMW South Africa at the time, Tim facilitated the donation of two locally-made X3 vehicles to the orphanage. These vehicles make the transportation of rhinos and the rhino rescue team members, as well as centre donors possible.

Tim shares the myriad of emotions that everyone tends to experience at The Rhino Orphanage. From tears on witnessing a traumatised, young orphaned rhino arriving at the rescue centre, to relief when observing how the team looks after the baby rhino.

Now acting as the Head of INEOS Automotive, Tim is working towards securing an INEOS Grenadier – a robust vehicle that can withstand traversing the densest bush – to retrieve and rescue the rhino orphans.

" Until you see for yourself the stress that these baby rhinos face in the first few months after being orphaned, you cannot put this conservation plight into words. "

our donors, sponsors and partners

It goes without saying that our journey to this point would not have been possible without the support and contributions of hundreds of people – both within their personal capacities and on an organisational level. While some organisations helped us to initially establish The Rhino Orphanage, others have joined more recently to best serve our cause as it has evolved and grown.

Past supporters of The Rhino Orphanage include, amongst others, Lafarge, New Holland, UD Trucks, FNB, Build-It, Zebediela Bricks, Cross Channel Marketing Specialists, and many more.
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