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Volunteers Step in to Help South African Rhino Orphanage

FILE - A young rhino, whose mother was killed by poachers, stands in its enclosure at a rhino orphanage in South Africa, Feb. 15, 2016.

A South African baby rhino sanctuary found itself facing a dual threat from the COVID-19 pandemic: an influx of newly orphaned rhinos and a lack of volunteers.

The Rhino Orphanage in South Africa's Limpopo province is a non-profit facility that specializes in raising baby rhinos left orphaned by poachers and eventually returning them to the wild.

They rely on foreign volunteers for much of their staffing, but the coronavirus pandemic forced them to leave when their visas were revoked.

Orphanage staffer Yolande van der Merwe said they were also concerned the lockdown would lead to an uptick in poaching, resulting in more orphaned rhinos coming to the facility.

A series of phone calls and social media posts led to hundreds of South Africans willing to step up — many of whom, themselves, were out of work because of the pandemic.

Africa's rhino population has been decimated over decades by poachers who sell them to meet the demand for rhino horns in Asia.