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Australia Zoo Awards 9-Year-Old South African Boy Wildlife Warrior 2016

December 5, 2016 Accolades No Comments Email Email

unnamed-1Nine-year-old South African boy, Hunter Mitchell, has accepted the 2016 “Visionary Wildlife Warrior” award from Bindi Irwin in Brisbane at the weekend, following his contributions to rhino conservation in South Africa.

Hunter received the accolade for his support in helping hand-rear a baby rhino that had been abandoned by its mother in the wild last year. In collaboration with Aquila Private Game Reserve, and the primary caregiver Divan Grobler, the wildlife enthusiast regularly volunteers his services which include cleaning, mud-bathing and walking the rhino calf named “Osita”, a Nigerian word meaning, “from today, things will be better”.

In addition, Hunter, who is now an honourary ranger at the reserve, has helped to raise more than $7,000 to help pay for Osita’s living costs, starting with his pocket money and asking friends and family to contribute, then arranging mufti days at school and creating a Facebook campaign page and crowdfunding website. His passion for rhino conservation has also seen him deliver talks to thousands of students educating them on the plight of the rhinos in schools across South Africa.

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Last week Hunter was able to travel to Australia to collect his prestigious award in person, thanks to a fundraising competition run by Aquila Private Game Reserve; Qantas who provided return international flights; and South African Tourism who assisted with flights, accommodation and all on-ground activities. The activities included setting up speaking and media engagements to help Hunter spread his important message to as many Australians as possible.

Acting Country Manager for South African Tourism Australasia, Yana Shvarts said “South African Tourism is committed to the conservation of our rhinos and Hunter’s story is a shining light in the fight to save these incredible animals. We are honoured to help bring such an inspiring young man to Australia to share his story, raise awareness and encourage future Wildlife Warriors.”

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Whilst in the country Hunter gave educational talks to a number of schools in Sydney, letting children know that they too “can make a difference even if you are small”. He also responded to media requests giving three national broadcast interviews with ABC News, The Project, and Weekend Sunrise, reaching millions of Australians.

Speaking at the annual Steve Irwin Gala Dinner in Brisbane, Bindi Irwin praised Hunter for his passion and initiative at such a young age. “I am a great believer in kid empowerment, because as kids, we’re the next voters, we’re the next decision-makers and the next generation to be changing the world”, she said.

The greatest threat facing rhinos is poaching for the illegal trade of their horns. This has soared in recent years with one rhino killed every eight hours. Last year, 1,312 rhinoceros were illegally killed in Africa. Unofficial figures for 2016 show the numbers are set to meet or exceed that due to increased demand in Asia for the animal’s horn. At this rate, it is expected that rhinos will be extinct within the next ten years.

To support Hunter’s cause for rhino conservation, click here.

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