Young girl’s quest to save rhinos

2010-04-14 00:00

SAM “Rhino-Girl” Yeats is a spunky 10-year-old with a big heart for conservation.

The grade five Wykeham Collegiate pupil has rallied her school in a fundraising effort to adopt a rhinoceros at the Zululand Rhino Reserve.

“I’ve always loved animals ever since I’ve been little, but rhinos are my absolute favourite. Conservation expansion projects are so important for them,” she says.

Unlike other girls her age, Yeats loves spending time reading up on rhinos and admits to quizzing game rangers with rhino-related questions whenever she has a chance.

“I’d much rather watch Animal Planet than Hannah Montana,” she says.

Yeats, who has animal knowledge far beyond her years, says it costs about R10 000 to dart, tag and notch a rhino calf.

Karen Odendaal, a conservation manager at the Zululand Rhino Reserve, said the animal’s horns are micro-chipped (tagged) so the animal can be identified in the event of mortality or poaching.

“Notching” involves cutting a unique “v” shape in one of the rhino’s ears so that they can be monitored.

“All the black rhino are monitored on a daily basis to ensure that the animals are healthy and doing well,” said Odendaal.

Yeats has organised a sponsored 10 km walk from her school to World’s View on Friday, April 16. The funds raised will go towards the darting, tagging and notching of a rhino calf, which the school will then adopt and name.

The three students who raise the most money will join Yeats on an expedition to watch the darting, tagging and notching process.

Yeats, who has been on such an expedition before, says the experience was “magical”. “You even get to touch the rhino.”

The blue-eyed, blonde-haired girl is passionate about her favourite animal. “Rhinos are critically endangered,” she says. “We just can’t allow them to become extinct. There would almost be no South Africa without the rhino.”

One day Yeats hopes to make a living from her love of wildlife. “I definitely want to be a conservation manager when I grow up,” she says. “It is a very important job to be in charge of a reserve and look after the animals.”

And while Yeats is trying desperately to change the lives of the rhinos she loves so much, she has unwittingly had an effect on the grown-ups around her too. “She is an absolute mad conservationist,” says her father, Gavin Yeats, “and has really gotten me to experience the bush again”.

E-mail Sam Yeats for more information on the walk at:


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