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Orphaned baby rhino Gertjie refuses to sleep alone after witnessing his mother's death at the hands of poachers

The baby rhino was found 'crying inconsolably' next to his dead mother

A baby rhino who was unable to sleep on his own after seeing his mother brutally murdered by poachers has captured the hearts of staff at the endangered species centre documenting his progress.

Gertjie was rescued from the wild on 7 May by staff at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre (HESC) in South Africa after he was found next to his mother's body.

Now almost four-months-old, he is slowly being weaned off his night feeds and is building up his strength with daily walks.

Staff at the centre, which focuses on the conservation of rare, vulnerable or endangered animals, said the baby rhino did not want to leave his mother's side and was “crying inconsolably” before being sedated and transported to the HESC.

In a statement released shortly after discovering the rhino, the HESC said: "A three-month-old baby rhino, anticipated to have been born on [or] around the 19 February, was brought to the HESC after being found next to his dead mother who had been tragically and brutally poached for her horn.

"It was a devastating sight, as the tiny animal would not leave her side, and was crying inconsolably for her.”

Gertjie, or 'Little G' as staff have nicknamed him, spent his first night at the centre with a human minder and a sheep called Skaap, who acts as the surrogate mother to the animals there.

Staff have been taking it in turns to feed the animal every three hours and sleep outside of his room to ensure he is fed at regular intervals. Skaap also spends time in his room and "cleans up after him from time-to-time". 

The centre has also set up a live channel so people can watch Gertjie as he spends his days “taking long walks, [having] mud baths and grazing”.

The team are now appealing for donations to help them keep enough fat-free milk in stock. Baby rhinos are only weaned off milk when aged between 15 and 18-months-old, so staff say he will be cared for at HESC until he is ready to be reintroduced into a wildlife reserve.