10 June 2015
The female rhino that survived having its horns hacked off by poachers was doing well after undergoing surgery, one of the vets who operated on it said yesterday.
“The surgery went well yesterday [Monday]. She is doing quite well. She is alert and walking around and eating,” said Dr Johan Marais, an equine and wildlife surgeon at the University of Pretoria. Marais is part of Saving the Survivors, a group that treats rhino for gunshot wounds, facial gouges and other injuries inflicted by poachers.
Three weeks ago poachers darted the rhino with a tranquilliser and hacked off its horns while the animal was sedated, fracturing its nasal bone and exposing the sinus cavities and nasal passages. Hope was later found by staff at the wildlife reserve – alive, but with a huge wound on the face.
“It was a large wound, about 50cm by 30cm and very deep. It went far into her sinuses and nasal passages,” Marais said. “It is easily one of the worst injuries that I had ever worked on.”
The rhino, which underwent the initial surgery in May, was later given the name “Hope”. On Monday, Marais and other vets worked on cleaning and redressing the wound and helped to maintain the structure of the rhino’s face at the Shamwari Game Reserve near Port Elizabeth.
“We removed dead tissue. There is also dead bone. We took out some, but we also used it as a scaffold [to help restructure the face],” Marais said. “We will go back in two or three weeks.”
It would probably take about 18 months for the wound to heal. However, if Hope was suffering to a point where it was inhumane to keep it alive, the vets would “put her down”. “But we don’t think that at this moment.”
Marais said one of the fundamental problems with helping rhino was that there was very little information available on the animals, especially on their anatomy and how to deal with situations like Hope’s. “This is a work in progress.”
At the rate rhino were being poached, people had to make a concerted effort to gain more knowledge about the animals so that more of them could be saved, he added.