Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage – The ‘Elephant Whisperer’ Lawrence Anthony’s Legacy!

Thula Thula Rhino Fund EMBLEM

The Thula Thula Rhino Fund is a registered Non-Profit Organisation, founded by Francoise Malby-Anthony, Managing Director of Thula Thula Private Game Reserve and widow of well known conservationist, explorer and international bestselling author Lawrence Anthony.

In March of 2012, Thabo who was three-years-old at the time was shot and wounded by ruthless poachers who had entered into the Thula Thula Private Game Reserve over nightfall, to poach our Rhino for their horn.

This resulted in the establishment of Thula Thula Rhino Fund, which raises funds for the protection and preservation of the Rhino population within the Thula Thula Private Game Reserve. Funding goes towards supplying much needed equipment for counter poaching activities, for crucial conservation initiatives and to ensure the on-going survival of our orphaned Rhino, which are rehabilitated at the Fundimvelo Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage.

The Story Of Fundimvelo Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage

THULA On_the_verge_of_extinction_Rhino_numbers_are_dropping_so_fast_ev-a-6_1434697489167
Karen Trendler with one of the orphans
“Thula Thula” in Zulu culture means “peace and tranquillity”, and that is exactly what we try to achieve for the Rhino orphans at the Fundimvelo Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage, an orphanage facility in KwaZulu-Natal South Africa, managed by world renowned Rhino rehabilitation specialist Karen Trendler, based at the Thula Thula Private Game Reserve.



The Fundimvelo Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage offers a safe haven for these little Rhino orphans, providing not only a quiet and protected environment where they can recover from the trauma, but also specialised nursing, care, rearing and rehabilitation.

The older Rhinos are guarded 24/7

Thanks to a partnership with International Austrian animal welfare organization Four Paws and the Fundimvelo Community Trust, the Fundimvelo Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage was established in 2014 and now offers refuge to baby Rhinos and Elephants who have lost their mothers to poachers.


The older rhinos on the private reserve are escorted by a pair of armed guards 24-hours-a-day, but the team at the orphanage are hoping they might be able to release the orphans out by themselves one day.

And that means raising them away from the crowds.

Karen explained: ‘We realised there’s a massive shortage of really good rhino care facilities.

‘There are enough rhino orphanages, but the problem is getting them to do it the right way. Unfortunately a number of them are doing ”pay and play”, where they’re bringing in paying volunteers. It’s fantastic for the kids to have that experience, but the problem with too many people being with the calf is that when it gets to sexual maturity it becomes an absolute monster.’

THULA Determined_The_team_including_big_brother_Axel_Tarifa_are_workin-a-3_1434697487463
‘Older Brother’ Axel Tarifa with Ithuba

More dangerously for the rhino is allowing it to get to used to humans – their only natural predator. ‘One of the risks of over-taming a calf is that they stand and wait for the poachers to shoot them,’ said Karen.


‘For us, the thing that’s worked in the past is that we have two or three keepers only, and then when gradually you break that bond with humans, they can go wild, they can interact with other rhino, they can breed.’

THULA _A_member_of_the_team_spend_24_-a-2_1434697487462
A Mother’s Love: Ithuba’s care notes. A member of the team spends 24 hours a day with him, just as his mother would

In Ithuba’s case,  there are three very particular keepers who have brought him back to health: Alyson McPhee, the mother figure for stability, Axel Tarifa, the ‘older brother’ for playing and protection, and Megan Richards, seen as ‘more like another little female in the group’.



‘We looked in the wild at what the calf has, and then we replicated what’s appropriate. In the wild he has a big solid mum that he leans against for comfort, she’s there all the time, there’s a huge amount of touching, tactile security.

THULA _Little_calves_like_Ithuba_are_being_injured_when_their_-a-5_1434697488944‘Calves that don’t get that security, just like human babies, won’t go and explore their environment, won’t go and play.’

And every little thing the team can do to get the orphans back on their feet so they can return to the wild and breed is vital.

Karen said: ‘You want to maximise the survival of every calf. Rhino numbers are dropping so fast every single calf counts.’

The Thula Thula Rhino Fund is raising funds to care for the orphaned rhinos at the Fundimvelo Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage. All donations and sponsorships are managed through the Thula Thula Rhino Fund for proper control, record keeping and reporting.

Saving Ithuba: How a baby rhino ‘suffering post-traumatic stress disorder’ is being treated in secret after he saw his mother shot dead by poachers


Help Support The Care Of An Orphan Rhino


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