Rhino evacuated during Golden Gate fire reunites with caretaker


NAPLES, Fla. A rhinoceros was reunited with its caretaker Thursday, three weeks after fire split them apart.

NGALA Wildlife Preserve CEO Donovan Smith rushed to rescue Walter the rhino when flames from an intense Golden Gate Estates wildfire tore through the preserve, forcing the animals to be evacuated.

Walter was unharmed, but Smith suffered second-degree burns and had to be flown to Tampa General Hospital. He was just released and returned to the preserve, where his last memories were of chaos.

“Last time I saw it here, everything was on fire, and the kind of fire that it was — it was like lighting a grill, so it was an instantaneous flash above us and everywhere,” Smith said. “There’s some nightmares there, you know?”

Part of the preserve was damaged, but Smith, his team and fire crews managed to save all 45 animals.

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