Laura Whiteley’s Moholoholo experience – wildlife rehabilitation in South Africa

Laura and Oli the "baby" rhino
Laura and Oli the “baby” rhino

In the summer of 2013 I embarked on a journey of a life time to South Africa, Moholoholo. Volunteering at an animal wildlife rehabilitation centre for 6 weeks.  I had no idea what to expect, little did I know I would be put in charge of raising a black rhino calf for the 6 weeks I was there.

The story of how I had the privilege of bringing up the rhino happened whist I had been at the rehabilitation centre for as little as 3 days, there was a tragic call about a mother rhino poached and a calf that had been left for dead. We immediately set off in hopes to save the calf, as we arrived there was a horrific sight of the mother and a four month old calf snuggling up to a lifeless dead body.  As we got back, the calf which was named Oli was made my responsibility to which entailed me to sleep for many weeks in the same room with him and feed him hourly in the nights; providing him endless attention and care.

Gradually with time I managed to gain Oli’s trust to which he was able to go on walks with other volunteers, I wouldn’t have said it was an easy ride! There were many tears and blood spilt from tantrums when he didn’t get his own way! The experience had taught me the value of these beautiful creatures which are decreasing every day due to the poaching scandals carried out. Saving Oli was a blessing for our team; it reminded us why we were there, with hope in the near future to release Oli on to a reserve where he can be reunited with his own kind.


The rehabilitation centre also caters for a wide diversity of animals from a giraffe calf, sables, bushbabies and new born serval kittens. Many of their animals are there due to the need of rehabilitation with hope to be rereleased, or those which are unable to be reintroduced due to hindrances that affect their general health; and therefore act as ambassadors for their species bringing awareness and knowledge for locals and tourists visiting the centre.

South Africa is a truly amazing place, and I would recommend it to anyone as I had the privilege of meeting a range of people from different backgrounds and cultures. I mean really! Who doesn’t want to wake up to a giraffe waiting for you outside your door?


Laura Whiteley

(Laura is a final year student, studying for a B.Sc. in Animal Biology)



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