Ebenezer Shabangu was scared but she was not letting go of the branch. She could see the black rhino's lip curl around the twigs and edge closer and closer to her fingers.
"It's only a calf," but her friends' faces around her echoed her apprehension.
In the past few weeks they've learned so much about rhino and yet, meeting one face to face asked her to dig deep for the courage to reach out and touch the thick skin, plastered with patches of grey dried mud.
At the other end of the half circle of broken branches held at arm's length, Desire Mathebula could not wait for the 19-month old calf to eat her way around. She wanted to see the horns – even if they were still small.
Ebenezer and Desire are two of 190 Grade 6 and 7 pupils from Matikinya Primary School in Hluvukani near Acornhoek that visited the Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre as part of a rhino awareness campaign run by the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve's Children's Eco-Training (CET). Great North Transport sponsored the buses.
For the past few weeks, Ebenezer, Desire and their classmates, as well as the Grade 6s and 7s at Seganyane Primary School in Green Valley, Acornhoek have mastered the difference between Africa's black and white rhino, its natural and cultural significance and touched on the present poaching attack on the country's rhino population.
However, seeing is believing, and the black rhino at Moholoholo seemed to have stomped the ‘did you knows' into ‘will never forgets'.
The rhino awareness campaign, with the theme "Love Rhino, Love Life" will culminate in a rhino festival at the two schools on Rhino Awareness Day and Heritage Day.