BLANKETS FOR BABY RHINOS
Craft conservation group supports wildlife orphanages and anti-poaching units by supplying them with knitted blankets.
Tiny baby rhinos and other wildlife orphans are being helped to recover and stay warm thanks to a remarkable initiative launched in Britain.
Vet Elisa Best heard from friends in South Africa how baby rhinos arriving at animal orphanages were terrified, traumatised and often hypothermic due to the cold.
Together with a friend she launched an appeal on Facebook in 2016 for knitted squares in order to make blankets, but instead they found themselves inundated with a number of beautiful colourful blankets from all over the world.
Elisa, from Monmouth, says: “I was overwhelmed by the talent and good will. We soon had more than we needed for rhinos so branched out to other species.
“We have donated over 2,000 handmade blankets since we started. We also make beanies, scarves and gloves for those out on patrol.
“The rangers in particular are touched to receive handmade goods often from very far away, many of them may never have left their local area, let alone the country and it means a great deal that someone on the other side of the world is thinking of them and grateful for what they do.
“We ask our members to attach notes of support for the rangers, which they do and it's lovely to see how touched they are.
“We feel that the extra moral support is vital for these people on the front line.”
After Elisa’s knitting group rapidly expanded, she established the initiative as a registered charity in both the UK and South Africa, with the aim of also raising awareness about the poaching crisis.
Collectively the charity has raised more than £36,000 to provide feed and equipment not just for rhinos but also for anti-poaching dogs in the Kruger National Park and to support other wildlife centres in three continents caring for endangered animals.
And Elisa says it's reaffirmed her faith in humanity.
"Being part of this group has made me realise there are a lot of really good people out there," she says.
"Everyday I’m surprised by their kindness. People you know don’t have much money who will still give and donate to us. every single penny we raise goes to the beneficiaries which is what makes us different to a big charity, we run on good will."
She's using the platform to raise awareness about other animals too and how our planet is in dire need of help.
"It's so depressing watching how our planet is going and we’re losing animals left, right and centre. It’s not just rhinos, we’ve also tried to help with pangolins.
"Even species that weren't endangered before, like giraffes, are now so if you do nothing it makes you feel sad and depressed. At least if you can channel that energy into something positive and know you’ve done something good."
It's not just baby rhinos who are benefitting from the charity, it's members are too.
"A lot of people have said being part of this has changed their lives, it’s given them a purpose and given them something to do.
"I’m really grateful for winning this award on behalf of the charity, it’s not a one man show, it’s a huge group effort. The response has been phenomenal."