The Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre has been in the conservation and rehabilitation business for nearly 30 years. And while the South African facility was originally built by founder Lente Roode for cheetah conservation, over the years a variety of animals have been brought to their sanctuary for rehabilitation.
According to its mission statement:
“HESC’s main objective is the conservation of rare, vulnerable and endangered animal species. We are actively involved in the research and breeding of endangered animal species, the release and establishment of captive-bred cheetahs in the wild, and the treatment and rehabilitation of wildlife (including victims of rhino poaching).”
But this is a story about three different types of animals – ones that show exactly how diverse the center’s residents really are.
She was skinny and malnourished after not receiving nutrition from her mother’s milk and it was heartbreaking for the staff to see unrelated rhinos refuse to bond with her.
That’s where David came in.
David is an Anatolian Shepherd that was introduced to her when he was just a puppy.
Despite the fact that they had formed a great bond, poor David got hurt quite badly when Esme stepped on his paw a few years back. They had to take a break from one another for a little while.
While Esme and David were apart, Mielie, a Thaba Manzi Pedi Lamb, was brought in to keep Esme company and they also formed a special friendship.
Pedi-sheep have a strong maternal instinct and are very protective of the animals they grow to be friends with, even if it’s an interspecies friendship.
Still, it took some time for Miele and Esme to bond while David healed.
But as Esme’s health improved, the two formed a friendship.
When David was finally reintroduced into the mix, there was some tension between the dog and lamb at first. David liked chasing Miele, who was understandably afraid of him.
But now the trio has melded and they enjoy walks around the property together.
The center posts many videos of the adorable threesome and a recent clip showing off their unique friendship recently went viral on the Love Nature YouTube channel.
Of course, interspecies friendship doesn’t always look like what we think it will. For example, David sometimes thinks Esme’s horn makes a great chew toy.
Rhinos don’t have any nerve endings in their horns (they’ve been compared to fingernails – and they also grow back) so this doesn’t hurt. In fact, the facility has recently de-horned some of their rhinos to keep them from being the victims of poaching!
The staff at the facility care very deeply for the creatures they serve.
That’s why they were so thrilled to watch these friendships develop, especially when Esme finally got her first friend in David, who loved to cover her in kisses and roll around in the mud with her.
Aren’t animals simply amazing?
Their companionship has also been important when one of them is not well.
For example, Esme got depressed when she had to be confined after a snakebite between her toes.
But as we all know, you get by with a little help from your friends, and that’s precisely what Esme needed.
She was thrilled to get to play with David and get some kisses from Miele, making her limited mobility more bearable.
We just love these three and the fact that Hoedspruit knows that love and affection are the key ingredients to rehabilitating animals that once never stood a chance.
Be sure to scroll down below to see a look at this unlikely trio – and if you can make a donation to help HESC do their important work or want to learn more, click here.
There are also plenty of wonderful videos on the center’s Facebook page!
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