There's not much that sounds cuddly about the task of combating the disastrous effects of poaching on South Africa's wild rhinoceros population. But for the volunteers at the Khuhula Care for Wild Africa rehabilitation center, cuddles are part of the job description.
The center takes in many kinds of wildlife, including hippo, vervet monkeys, antelope, mongoose, and meerkats, but it specializes in hand-rearing baby rhinos orphaned by poaching. With over 1,000 South African rhinos lost to poaching annually, the center stays quite busy feeding, healing, and socializing the babies until they can be released back into the wild.
The center gets much of its volunteer workforce from the African Conservation Experience program, which connects conservation-minded travellers with local initiatives needing extra hands. Volunteers help with preparing formula, bottle-feeding, nursing, and keeping records on the rhino babies and other infant wildlife. And though the travellers pay for the privilege of helping with these amazing animals, according to volunteer Elizabeth Doiron "[it] was the single most incredible experience of my life. I am grateful every day for the opportunity, and will hope every day for the financial possibility of going back."
If snuggling a baby rhino is anywhere on your bucket list, check out the Care for Wild Africa program. (And please give those little rhinos an extra pat for us.)