The Rhino That Should Have Never Been Born

Photographer and filmmaker Adrian Steirn captures the miracle of life in the face of illegal poaching and extinction

Cape Town-based filmmaker and photographer Adrian Steirn is no stranger to working with icons. The Australian-born Steirn is known equally for his timeless wildlife images as he is his award-winning portraits of world leaders and cultural figures (including the late Nelson Mandela) most recently compiled in his “21 Icons” series.

At the start of the new year however, Steirn faced the tragedy of one of Africa’s icons in the animal kingdom facing extinction at the hands of poachers. South Africa’s rhino conservation programs are one of the key lifelines keeping the species from extinction, however as herds increase in size, poachers seeking rhino horns have become more and more prevalent. Steirn’s latest work tells the story of Thandi and Themba: two rhinos at the Kariega Game Reserve who had their horns brutally removed by poachers and were then left to die. While Themba succumbed to his injuries, the pregnant Thandi began to recover and—as her instincts kicked in—she retreated deep into the bush to give birth. The story of Thandi’s calf is one that gives conservationists hope in the face of globally fuelled poaching and dwindling rhino populations worldwide.

Follow Adrian Steirn for the latest updates Thembi and her calf as well as his ongoing photography projects.

Video courtesy of Adrian Steirn