A member of the gardening team at Cotswold Wildlife Park & Gardens has been knitting blankets for orphaned baby rhinos in Africa, as the park hosts Rhino Month to raise awareness of the animal’s plight.

Mandy Hicks is described as a ‘champion knitter’ who was accomplished at the craft ‘way before Tom Daley made it big’.

Ms Hicks knits throughout the winter as something as ‘something to do’, with her blankets providing the baby rhinos with warmth and comfort.

Ms Hicks knits the blankets for the charity Blankets for Baby Rhinos (BFBR), who send blankets to babies which have been orphaned by poachers.

Debbie Ryan, press officer for Cotswold Wildlife Park & Gardens, said: “Mandy saw an article in the papers a while ago about a charity who ask people to knit blankets for orphaned Rhino calves who have lost their mothers' to poaching.

“She thought it was a wonderful charity.”

Oxford Mail: Mandy Hicks with Liz Brown of Blankets for Baby Rhinos with a blanket Ms Hicks knitted and the park's rhinos in the background (Debbie Ryan)Mandy Hicks with Liz Brown of Blankets for Baby Rhinos with a blanket Ms Hicks knitted and the park's rhinos in the background (Debbie Ryan)

To raise awareness of the plight of African rhinos in the wild, the park hosts Rhino Month throughout August.

Rhino Month raises funds for rhino conservation work in Africa, provides catch-ups with rhino keepers and updates on the parks ‘crash’ – the collective name for a group of rhinos.

As well as this, Rhino Month enables visits to discover new information about ‘one of the world’s most iconic animals’.

Cotswold Wildlife Park has raised over £120,000 for conservation in Africa in the last ten years through various fundraising events.

In 2020, the park welcomed its seventh rhino calf, D’ora. Her birth was described as ‘testament to the dedication of the mammal keepers and the Park’s commitment to the European Breeding Programme (EEP)’.

Oxford Mail: D'ora, the latest addition to the park (Rory Carnegie)D'ora, the latest addition to the park (Rory Carnegie)

Like many charities, the work of Blankets for Baby Rhinos has been effected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The pandemic is described as having had a ‘devastating impact on rhino conservation and poaching has once again escalated to serious levels’.

Ms Ryan added: “There is heart breaking situation right now with the blankets as they [BFBR] cannot physically get them to the rhinos due to Covid-19 restrictions on flights.”

Ms Ryan said the charity has got ‘so many’ blankets to give the rhinos and the rangers who look after the babies but they cannot get a flight to deliver them.

Ms Ryan added that it is a ‘particularly cold winter this year so they're needed more than ever’.

Blankets for Baby Rhinos states more than 7000 African rhinos have been killed in the last decade due to an ‘increase in demand for Rhino horn in Asia’.

Blankets for Baby Rhinos was founded in November 2016 by Elisa Best and Sue Brown.