Cape Town - Hunter Mitchell of Cape Town is passionate about SA's wildlife. So much so that he was named ‘Visionary Wildlife Warrior for 2016’ by the Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors founded by Steve and Terri Irwin in Brisbane.
Mitchell won the award for creating a crowd-funding initiative to raise money for an abandoned rhino calf at the Aquila Private Game Reserve at the beginning of the year. The baby eventually named Osita”, meaning “from today on-wards it will be better”, was rejected and ill-treated by its parents after it was born on New Year's Eve in 2015. Mitchel managed to raise about R75k to help the embattled Osita.
However after receiving news that he had won, Traveller24 reported how he was struggling with funds to make it to Australia to claim his award.
SEE: This 9-year-old conservation award winner needs your help
Australia's national carrier Qantas, however stepped up to help Mitchell, flying him from Cape Town to Brisbane, Australia to receive the Steve Irwin Visionary Wildlife Warrior for 2016 for his passionate efforts to support an orphaned baby rhino.
Hunter says,“It is my vision to get all kids, no matter what country they live in or language they speak, to dream together so we can all have the privilege of having these amazing animals in our combined future.”
“As soon as we heard Hunter had been selected for the ‘Visionary Wildlife Warrior for 2016’ by the Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors founded by Steve and Terri Irwin in Brisbane, we knew we wanted to help him get there,” says Michi Messner, Regional Manager Africa for Qantas.
'SA and Australia known for their renowned wildlife'
“We were thrilled to have Hunter on board. South Africa and Australia are known for their renowned wildlife and we want to encourage Hunter to continue his efforts for such a worthy cause.”
Hunter recalls how he had been aiming for R1 000 and was so happy that in just two weeks he had raised R10 000 for Osita at the time.
Hunter received a big surprise when Aquila invited him to the bush sanctuary to donate his funds in person and meet the baby rhino that inspired him. He had the rare opportunity to take Osita for a walk, give him a mud bath, feed him his bottle and topped off the day with a nap, resting his head on Osita’s chest listening to his drum-like heartbeat.
“I cried all the way home and for the next few days. I knew I had to continue raising money for Osita’s special care to make sure he had everything he needed to grow up and have a healthy and happy life.”
Hunter continued raising public awareness and garnering donations, which has enabled Osita to be housed in a huge boma (an enclosure for animals), have special food and medicine and a dedicated ranger who lives with him around the clock. In the process, the campaign expanded beyond Osita to a more general campaign promoting the fight against rhino poaching.
An estimated 363 rhino have been poached so far in 2016, and while still high it is a far sight better than the 1020 estimated rhinos killed in 2014.
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