Group of ACE volunteers relaxing around the campfire
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Rachele Stoppoloni: bottle feeding a baby rhino

Rachele Stoppoloni

🇮🇹 Italy

Length of Trip
14 Nights

Project Year

I had been looking for an experience like the Golola Rhino Orphanage and Rehabilitation Centre when I came across ACE. Having read a little bit about them as an organisation I knew their projects were the ones to go for! The process was very easy and straightforward. As soon as I had made an application I received an email so I could arrange a phone call. The team knew what they were talking about and could answer any question I had about the projects. I spoke to Georgina about what sort of experience I was looking for and she recommended several different projects I could join. I decided based on all the advice that the Golola Rhino Orphanage would be the best option for me.

Every day was full of activities to care for the rhinos. Waking up early in the morning was normal, I’d have a quick breakfast and then I would help prepare all of the food for the rhinos. I helped prepare bottles of milk for the baby rhinos who needed to be fed every couple of hours, so this was a never ending task. The next task would be preparing the rest of the food for the older rhinos and helping to clear out their bomas. At the end of the day, I could relax and have dinner with the rest of the team. I really felt like I was part of this little family who were all brought together for a common purpose. This sense of community was completely unexpected and the bond I made with these people will stay with me forever.

Not only do they care for the rhinos but they care for each other and you as a volunteer.

The experience took my breath away. Every day was somehow better than the day before. And it’s not just being with the rhinos but also the relationships you make with the team. There were a lot of moments that took my breath away. One moment that will stay with me forever, was the first time I went into the adult rhino boma to feed them. It was an unreal feeling being surrounded by rhinos waiting for their dinner. I felt safe the entire time being with the team, and I never thought I would get to experience something like this in my lifetime.

Another moment was when I was involved in monitoring the rhinos that had been released into the reserve. It was late afternoon, the sun was setting, and the air felt so fresh, we were driving through the bush surrounded by wildlife. I needed a second to breathe it all in as I realised I would probably never experience that ever again.

I also met a baby rhino called Shamara. She arrived at the orphanage 2 months ago and is now 5 months old but she is very small for her age. Before she came to the orphanage she wasn’t being fed properly by her mother. Her mother would keep her at a distance, and wouldn’t allow Shamara to bond with her. In some cases the mothers choose not to take care of their baby and in this instance the orphanage stepped in to take care of her. When she was first brought into the centre she was very malnourished but within a short amount of time she has turned into a healthy baby. I bonded with Shamara the most, she is a very feisty baby, who loves to play and is very active and she wanted to be around the caretakers. It is amazing to see how the team works, and also very interesting to learn that it is not just orphaned babies whose mothers have been poached that are brought in. In some cases, like Shamara’s, if the team did not intervene the baby, or the mother, or both would not have survived.

An experience like this changes the way you see things. It opens up your eyes and mind to experiences that you wouldn’t normally have. You get to talk to the local people and see the amazing work they do every day. The passion they have is infectious and it has given me a sense of purpose.

I have learnt a lot about conservation and feel like I have been a part of something bigger. Now that I am back home this new hope and energy has stayed with me and has pushed me to keep going with my studies and do good things!