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Alexandra Bruce
June 10, 2014

An orphaned baby rhino has bonded with its keeper after seeing South African poachers mutilate his mother for her horn.
The animal was brought to the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Center (HESC) in South Africa and affectionately named Gretjie by the staff.

By the time rangers were alerted and rushed to the scene, the poachers were gone and the rhino was dead. Next to her body, the rangers found a baby rhino refusing to leave her side, crying inconsolably, HESC officials said.

Since arriving at their sanctuary, however, the thick-skinned creature can be seen taking two long walks daily and loving his mud baths. Much like any child, Gertjie is scared of sleeping alone at night. He spends sleep time snuggled up to a staff member and loves taking a snooze on their laps. Check out this video to see Gertjie snuggling up and getting ready for a nap.

Gertjie is adapting well to life at the facility but it’s a challenge to feed him, the center says. He needs to be fed every three hours. Already weighing over 242 pounds, Gretjie drinks about 1.5 liters (roughly 50 ounces) of “milk” – a mixture of fat-free milk powder, vitamins, glucose and hot water – eight times a day.

Staffers say Gretjie gets grumpy when he is hungry. Rhinos are notoriously grumpy animals, which is what makes this footage so startling.

The total number of rhino poached in South Africa last year increased to 1,004, or 50 percent, from 2012, according to the Department of Environmental Affairs in the Republic of South Africa.

Rhino horns are in high demand and prized in the traditional Asian medicine market, particularly in China and Vietnam.

Alexandra Bruce

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