Rescue Fund Launched After Beloved Rhino Dies

An animal emergency rescue fund has been established by the SanWild Wildlife Trust in remembrance of Baixinha, a rare and much-loved East African black rhinoceros who died at the SanWild Wildlife Sanctuary in Limpopo Province, South Africa on Wednesday, November 13, 2003.

Baixinha first made international headline news in June of 2001, when Fiona MacLeod reported in the Mail & Guardian that the rhino cow was to be killed in a “canned” trophy hunt organized by wildlife dealer John Brooker of Glen Afric farm in Brits, just outside of Johannesburg.

The story sparked an international outcry and caught the attention of celebrities Aishwarya Rai and Charlize Theron, who sent letters pleading for Baixinha’s life to the rhino’s owner, David Laylin of Great Falls, Virginia (USA).

Writing on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Aishwarya Rai commented, “The slaughter of an animal so magnificent and rare would be a terrible tragedy. Making it even more tragic is the fact that Baixinha is tame. She has no fear of humans and even takes food from a child’s hand. How horrible to contemplate betraying this gentle animal’s misplaced trust in humans.”

Laylin was persuaded by Louise Joubert, founder of SanWild to let the rhino live out the rest of her life at the SanWild Wildlife Sanctuary, where she was moved in the summer of 2002.

Baixinha became ill on the morning of November 11, 2003. Blood tests showed severe kidney and liver failure as well as an unknown internal infection. Unable to save her, the staff at SanWild Wildlife Sanctuary were forced to euthanize the endangered rhino.

“All the love and attention that was given to her was returned to us three fold and we will never forget this dear old creature,” wrote one of Baixinha’s keepers, when the rhino’s death was announced on SanWild’s Web site.

“She will be greatly missed,” the keeper added. “Sitting alone with her this morning and saying goodbye and apologising to her for all that people have done to her ? they took away her freedom and abused her mentally and physically ? I made a personal promise to her. I promised that we will find other rhino[s] in captivity ? abused and neglected ? and we will return their freedom to them. We will give them a better life.”

The Humane Society of the United States has reported that thousands of wild animals, representing hundreds of different species, are killed in canned hunts annually.

Variously referred to as “hunting preserves,” “game ranches,” or “shooting preserves,” canned hunting is the killing of an animal in an enclosure to obtain a trophy.

Trophy hunting is an elitist hobby, requiring tens of thousands of dollars to participate in each hunting trip. Many trophy hunters belong to organizations which promote and enable the so-called sport, such as Safari Club International (SCI). Founded in 1971, SCI is based in Tucson, Arizona, and has more than 100 chapters around the world.

According to the SanWild Wildlife Sanctuary’s Website, the fund established in memory of Baixinha will be used to raise monies “to expose the illegal trade and canned hunting of wild and surplus zoo animals. The rescue fund will also be used to rescue wild animals in need of help and will pay for all veterinary expenses for rescued animals.”

At the time of her death, Baixinha was one of less than 500 East African black rhinos left in the world. © 2003 Animal News Center, Inc.