Knitting for rhinoceros babies

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Richard and Paula McKeown with the beginnings of a new rhino baby blanket.

By Margaret Irvine

The plight of rhinoceros babies orphaned by the cruel actions of poachers has touched hearts around the world.

As the mothers are shot for their horns, the young and vulnerable baby rhinos are abandoned and, if they are lucky, rescued and taken to a rhino orphanage.

To provide essential warmth for the young animals, blankets are being made by knitters and crochet crafters around the world including Paula McKeown of Kapiti Knitting and Lotto of Paraparaumu Beach and the shop's customers.

Paula said she and her husband, Richard, were introduced to the need for baby rhino blankets by staff member Anne Larkin and it was decided to make a project of sending blankets to Thula Thula Rhino orphanage in South Africa.

"Like human babies the rhino babies are unable to regulate their own body temperature and the nights are really cold.

"The carers sleep by the babies at night as they are used to the warmth from their mothers."

Sadly, while the orphanage should be a safe haven, poachers found out where the rhino young were being kept and two which were about to be released into the wild were killed for their tiny horns and a carer assaulted.

Security has now been enhanced to prevent further attacks.

Four blankets have been sent to Thula Thula by the Kapiti Knitting and Lotto Shop team.

One was knitted as a whole and the others were made up of 20cm by 20cm squares with 36 squares to a blanket.

"So that's been 108 squares with a collection of new ones under way," Paula said.

"Anyone can knit or crochet a square for us.

"Even our children Emma, 9, and Patrick, 11, have had a go."

The squares are made from double-knit acrylic or machine washable wool.

For knitters the squares begin with some 44 stitches.

While conservation efforts are being focused on putting an end to the cruel trade in rhino horn, anyone armed with knitting needles or a crochet hook can help the survivors.

Peggy squares can be dropped off to Kapiti Knitting and Lotto in Maclean St, Paraparaumu Beach.

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