Close up of a baby rhino, The Rhino Orphanage

The Supervet: Safari Special at The Rhino Orphanage

The Rhino Orphanage is a remarkable organisation and is leading the charge to save the rhino population from extinction. With the help of African Conservation Experience, it welcomes volunteers from all over the world to support its cause, and recently it gained the support of the Supervet, Noel Fitzpatrick. He travelled from his specialist referral practice in Surrey all the way to South Africa to lend his skills and thirty years of expertise as part of his new episode the Supervet: Safari Special.

The Supervet Noel Fitzpatrick, with a sedated rhino, as part of The Supervet: Safari Special on Channel 4 and All 4

I’m very excited to go. I’m also a little bit afraid because it’s something I’ve never done before. I’m not sure what I’m going to see, what challenges are going to meet me… all I can do is my best, and hope that my best is good enough.

Noel Fitzpatrick

Noel, who is at the forefront of innovation in orthopaedics and neurosurgery for small animals in the UK, turned his hand to helping endangered rhinos and improving their lives during his time at The Rhino Orphanage. Founded in 2012 by Arrie van Deventer, The Rhino Orphanage is the world’s first dedicated rhino orphanage, and its mission is to rescue, raise, rehabilitate, and release orphaned rhinos back into the wild. In addition to their rescue efforts, the orphanage is also committed to educating the public about poaching and the plight of rhinos.

Both Noel and the team here at African Conservation Experience are hoping the upcoming Supervet: Safari Special on Channel 4 and All 4 will provide an informative and engaging education piece to the wider community, and encourage more people to volunteer and support rhino conservation efforts. The rhino is one of the most endangered species on the planet. Numbers have dropped over 95% in the last century due to loss of habitat and poaching, and today there are less than 30,000 left in the wild.

“Having the opportunity to travel to South Africa and spend time with the magnificent animals of the savannah and the wonderful selfless people who dedicate their lives to looking after them – often in very difficult circumstances, including illegal poaching and conflict – was truly life-changing. I found the dedication, compassion and clinical skill of the veterinary professionals I met profoundly inspirational,” said Noel.

In the Supervet: Safari Special episode, one of Noel’s patients is Kolisi, a resident young white rhino at The Rhino Orphanage. For Kolisi, Noel helps design and build the world’s first prosthetic foot for the species. He also assesses a brace that the company Animotion developed for Impi, another orphaned rhino. But that’s not all. With a specialism in small animals and orthopaedics, Noel also turns his eyes to The Rhino Orphanage’s anti-poaching dog and, much to the appreciation of the whole team, diagnoses and treats her lumbosacral joint for her degenerative lumbosacral stenosis.

The Supervet: Safari Special introduces Noel to the battles people face every day to conserve endangered species. Here at African Conservation Experience, we are proud to share this with all of our volunteers, to show how their support truly makes a difference. Our volunteers were lucky enough to be at The Rhino Orphanage during Noel’s visit – Chloe Fairston was one. She said: “As a vet myself and having grown up watching the Supervet, you can only imagine the excitement when I heard that I could be involved in this! The experience did not let us down. It was incredible. Noel himself was terrific and he very much involved all of the vet students and graduated vets who were there at the time.”

The Rhino Orphanage offers an unparalleled opportunity for volunteers to gain hands-on experience caring for orphaned and injured rhinos. When you volunteer with African Conservation Experience, you can be involved in every aspect of their rehabilitation, from bottle-feeding a rhino calf to observing the training of the anti-poaching dogs. Just like Chloe and Noel, you’ll have the chance to witness this process firsthand and be a vital part of these incredible animals’ journey to survival.

What I experienced was eye-opening to the immense challenges and responsibility we have as humankind to step up and look after these incredible animals who are intrinsic to our legacy on planet earth.

Noel Fitzpatrick
The Supervet: Safari Special

Supervet: Safari Special aired on Thursday 23 February 2023 at 9.00 pm GMT on Channel 4 and All 4.

If you share Noel's passion for wildlife and want to make a difference...

Consider volunteering at The Rhino Orphanage today! Apply with African Conservation Experience, southern Africa’s original conservation travel company, and support this incredible cause at The Rhino Orphanage, the world’s first dedicated rhino orphanage and the second biggest rhino orphanage in South Africa.