Conservationist Hunter Mitchell, 14, honoured with award named after Princess Diana
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Cape Town - A Cape Town teenager has received international recognition for his sustained efforts to save the rhino population in South Africa.
Hunter Mitchell, 14, from Somerset West was awarded the Diana Award, established in memory of the late Princess Diana, Princess of Wales.
The award is given out by the charity of the same name to “outstanding young people selflessly creating and sustaining positive social change, in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales”. Recipients of the award are aged between 9 and 25 years and it is based on their social action or humanitarian efforts.
A virtual ceremony took place last Thursday, on what would’ve been Princess Diana’s 60th birthday.
At the tender age of 8, Mitchell began raising funds in support of an orphaned white rhino near his home. Five years later, Mitchell has raised nearly R400 000 for the protection of rhinos threatened by poachers.
“It started with a project called ‘Raise the Baby Rhino with Hunter’ to help save an abandoned baby rhino, Osita, found at Aquila Private Game Reserve in the Western Cape on New Year's Eve in 2015,” he said.
“I learnt so much from that one special rhino and how every rhino's life is important. After years of hard work, Osita was successfully released back into the wild and I decided that I needed to help as many orphaned and injured rhinos around South Africa to have the same second chance at life.”
Mitchell was nominated for the award by Saving the Survivors founder Dr Johan Marais. With a particular focus on rhinos, wildlife organisations tend to injured endangered wildlife that has fallen victim to poaching or traumatic events.
Mitchell said he hoped to follow in the footsteps of his mentor, Dr Marais, and become a rhino vet.
Funds are raised through awareness talks at schools, civvies day, talks at corporate events and other spaces. In 2019, Mitchell launched a rhino sock collection supported by Pick n Pay clothing, and rhino masks are sold at the park shops in the Kruger National Park.
“I feel honoured to be acknowledged and be a part of something that includes other visionaries and leaders from around the world. Being the only South African in 2021 is bittersweet as I know there are lots of other young people doing amazing things here,” said Mitchell of the award.
“South Africa has so many beautiful and unique animals, it's our responsibility to care for them and protect them so future generations get to enjoy them too.”
Diana Award chief executive Tessy Ojo said: “We congratulate all our new Diana Award recipients from the UK and around the globe who are change-makers for their generation. We know by receiving this honour they will inspire more young people to get involved in their communities and begin their own journey as active citizens.
“For over twenty years the Diana Award has valued and invested in young people, encouraging them to continue to make positive change in their communities and lives of others.”