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Baby Rhinos Fight For Survival At Orphanage

Baby rhinos left to die by poachers after killing their mothers for their horns, get rescued and rehabilitated at a special orphanage. 2013-11-02 04:38 PM EST Last Updated: 2013-11-02 04:47 PM EST

Baby rhinos left to die by poachers after killing their mothers are given a chance to survive at one of South Africa's first dedicated rhino orphanages.

Calves, one as young as a few weeks old are all housed at a facility specially built by Legends Lodges Resorts, 250km north of Johannesburg, which is run by volunteers who give round the clock medical attention and individual care to all the rhinos rescued.

As they are hornless in their infancy and useless to poachers, once the mother is killed the baby rhinos are left to die, often starving to death.

The lucky ones which are found in time, are taken to the centre for rehabilitation for the eventual reintruduction to the wild.

The number of rhinos killed by poachers has hit a new annual record in South Africa, raising worries of a downward population spiral in a country that is home to almost all of Africa's rhinos.

As of the end of September, 704 rhinos had been killed by poachers in South Africa, exceeding the a record of 668 set in 2012, according to data provided by the Environmental Affairs ministry.

The greatest threat to the estimated 22,000 rhinos in South Africa comes from those trying to cash in on the black market value of their horn, which sells at prices higher than gold.

Conservationists worry that if the trend keeps its current pace, more than 1,000 rhinos would be killed in 2014, putting the species on the brink of a population decline that could lead to the end of wild rhinos in about a decade.

Rhino horn, once seen as a treatment only for royalty, is being swallowed by a small segment of the Vietnamese population who can afford prices of about $65,000 a kilogram, conservation groups say.

Due to the high costs, much of the so-called rhino horn sold at pharmacies in major cities is fake, with buffalo horn the main substitute.

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