A 10-year-old local named Hunter Mitchell was awarded second place in the International Eco-Hero Youth Awards held by Action for Nature on 20 August 2018. He was given the award in recognition for his activism efforts for rhino conservation in South Africa.
The award recognizes children aged from 8 – 12 years old for their environmental achievements in protecting nature.
Mitchell is honored to have received the internationally acclaimed award and has already recognized the role he has to play at such a young age.
“Kids are the future of the planet and we need to stand up now and make a difference before its too late,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell has received other awards in recognition of his efforts , and was named the LeadSA Youth Hero. He was also awarded the International Steve Irwin Visionary Wildlife Warrior of the Year in 2016.
Mitchell is more focused on the spreading the message of wildlife preservation than the recognition.
“It is never about the awards but about the opportunity to reach more people to grow our army of warriors to save our rhino,” he said.
A foundation to save Rhinos
In 2015 at the tender age of seven years old, Mitchell was inspired to play a role in rhino conservation after he was informed of a baby rhino, named Osita that was orphaned at Aquila Private Game Reserve. Thankfully, Osita was rescued.
The incident inspired Mitchell to play a role in helping the orphaned baby rhino and the rest of her species.
“Through my journey, helping Osita with the amazing and dedicated team at Aquila, I have learnt so much more about the poaching crisis facing our previous rhino and my dream of helping to save just one rhino has turned into a goal of helping to save all of our rhinos,” he said.
To help the baby rhino and play a role in the animals life, Mitchell established a Facebook page which later turned into an organization called, ‘Raise the baby rhino with Hunter’ and has become a corner stone in his life.
“The organization means everything to me and the future of our rhino. There is not one magic thing that is going to save our rhino, many things need to change and more work needs to be done,” Mitchell said.
He also raised R225 000 to help rescue, raise and rehabilitate orphaned and injured rhino through Raise the baby rhino with Hunter.
Mitchell is of the opinion that its going to take a lot more to help the rhinos and that every cent counts.
“So much more money is needed as rhino orphans are being saved almost every few days after horrible poaching attacks on them or their parents,” he said.
Spreading the message
Mitchell shares an undeniable passion for these rugged and beautiful animals and he wants the rest of South Africa to play a role in their conservation.
He is willing to spread the message by giving talks at schools to educate his fellow peers and hopes that he can reach an international audience as well.
As an activist, he understands that the rhino horn trade that occurs in China and Vietnam are a huge contributor to poaching and locals of these countries need to be educated about the harm that it is causing.
Currently, he is working on a book that will inform young children about the poaching crisis and the need to be more environmentally aware. He is hoping to get his story out across the oceans and into Asia.
“I am just finishing a storybook for children and it is my goal to get this book into schools throughout Asia, where I can’t get to right now. I want children growing up in Vietnam and China to know that rhino horn does nothing special for humans – it doesn’t save them from cancer or other sicknesses,” he said.
In order to get his book off the ground, Mitchell requires an illustrator and a publishing company to take part in this new development.
In honor of World Rhino Day on 22 September, Mitchell is hosting a special event that will be shared on the Facebook page, Raise the baby Rhino with Hunter.
Picture: Raise the Baby Rhino with Hunter/Facebook