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Starlite Rescues Mourning Rhino Calf

18 Feb 2016

Following an urgent call to the Starlite Aviation Group on Saturday, 13 February, for assistance to rescue an orphaned white rhino calf, a joint effort between the Helicopter Company and staff of the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife resulted in a bitter sweet but successful operation.


In yet another rhino poaching incident, a female white rhino slaughtered by poaches in Hluhluwe left her young calf orphaned. Starlite’s pilot Robbie Swaisland took the call for an appeal from Jed Bird, from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, to assist in the rescue of the orphaned calf, who was left mourning alongside his mother’s body. An emotional Robbie said, “Until you see the mutilation of a rhino in the wild and hear the cries from a calf having lost its mother, the reality and the gravity of rhino poaching only then hits home.”

Starlite’s aircraft was mobilised and air born from Virginia Airport within 30 mins of receiving the all clear and flew to the Centenary Centre where a Jed Bird, three rangers and a resident vet were airlifted and transported to Sontuli Loop, situated along the Black Mfolozi river an area inaccessible by road, to the stricken calf. The fear was, that the young rhino would be exposed to the elements or become the prey to the larger predators if left alone overnight.

Before sundown, the calf had been darted, loaded into the Starlite helicopter and transported to a holding pen.

Statistics show that some 20 405 white and 5 055 black rhino remain on the African continent. The poaching of rhino rose significantly in the years from 2003 and 2015 where numbers reached a staggering 1215 in 2014 and by August 2015, figures stood at 749 in South Africa alone.

Robbie went on to add that he was extremely proud to fly for the Starlite Aviation Group. The Company supports the fight against the poaching of all animals and added how good he felt having played a significant role in the rescue of the baby calf, now aptly named, ‘Robbie’ Rhino. Starlite has extensive experience in the rescue and relocation of animals in the wild and specialises in the surveillance of areas affected by the barbaric acts of poachers.

Jed Bird confirmed today, that although Robbie Rhino was extremely traumatised by the events of the weekend, the calf began feeding and was more settled.