The rhino who survived against all odds.
On the 8th of June 2015 “Hope”, the rhino Survivor, underwent her third procedure to repair the catastrophic damage done to her by poachers who left her for dead.Hope, the four year old white rhino, who has become the international symbol for the rhino crisis, was treated by Saving the Survivors, a team of vets dedicated to saving the victims of poaching.
The operation which took two hours and twenty minutes, was another procedure in a series of ground breaking treatments undertaken by Saving the Survivors. Dr Gerhard Steenkamp, from the University of Pretoria and co-founder of Saving the Survivors explains “Our first procedure was on the 18th of May to repair as much of the wound as we could. Our priority was to assess the extent of the damage to Hope’s face and if she could in fact, be saved. We have treated many victims of poaching and through our experience we were confident that Hope could survive these horrific injuries inflicted on her by poachers.”
“The previous procedure involved removing the first face shield which had come loose after she rubbed her face up against the boma (enclosure). Leaving this wound exposed has inhibited the healing process by allowing these tissues to dry out and so we took the decision to place a new shield over the wound to keep it moist and assist with the repair process,” explains Dr Steenkamp.
“Through the work that Saving the Survivors does, this rhino, Hope, is giving victims of poaching a voice which cries out to the world for our help. She is becoming a living symbol of this poaching crisis, and an inspirational example of the fight for survival against seemingly insurmountable odds. Her struggle to claim back her life and her dignity must become our fight to change human behaviour and restore value and respect and care for all living things.”
Today’s procedure and her journey ahead demands a huge team effort and our thanks go out to every member of the public who has been moved to share Hope’s story. Without your voices her struggle would be a silent one. Our thanks must go to The Wilderness Foundation, Medivet UK, Dr Johan Joubert and his team on Shamwari Game Reserve, including his incredible ground crew, led by Bruce Main, who have provided exceptional support through all our procedures with Hope, and for dnata4good for their ongoing support of STS.
Fearless rhino makes it through third vital procedure – 16th June 2015
The biggest challenge currently is keeping Hope’s shield in place when most of the bone required for attachment points has been removed by the poachers. Dr Johan Marais, who is also from the Faculty of Veterinary Science, Onderstepoort, and a co-founder of Saving the Survivors said, “we took radiographs of the damaged area to ascertain if there were anchor points and enough bone integrity to attach the shield. The bone has to be healthy enough to be able to drill the shield into place, it’s the only way that we are able to make sure it stays on. In the absence of sufficient bone, we sutured the bottom part of the shield on which should keep it in place for longer. This is to give the damaged areas a better chance to recover. Her procedure took longer than we would have liked so we have now made a mould of the shield so next time it is ready to be attached which should cut down procedure time by 45 minutes.”
“Whilst we remain positive that she will recover, we have to be realistic in our expectations of the timeframes required for Hope’s healing process. It is going to be a long journey and she has to be closely monitored at all times especially in these early stages, for any complications. From our experience we anticipate it will take at least a year to a year and a half before a full recovery can be expected. What Hope is teaching us now is invaluable. We can draw from her treatment when treating other victims of poaching with severe facial wounds. We must be patient and give her body time to heal. We are providing her with the best medical care we have and making her as comfortable as possible,” says Marais.
Dr Will Fowlds who is also the Medivet Rhino Project co-ordinator for the Wilderness Foundation, watched over Hope’s anaesthetic on this occasion and had the following to say,
Fearless rhino with a desire to survive second to none refuses to die – 20th May
The Eastern Cape has suffered major losses to poaching in the last 20 days. On the 30th of April this year, two white rhino, an adult cow her young calf, were poached at Lombardini Game Farm both animals were shot and killed with a large calibre rifle. The horns of the cow were removed. The senseless killing of the two month old calf was disturbing as the poachers left the calf’s horn intact, but shot him anyway.
Only a week later Lombardini was to suffer another loss when a sub adult white rhino bull was shot, killed and the horns removed, a four year old rhino heifer (female) was missing. She was found in dire condition a couple of days later. Her face was badly mutilated; both horns were savagely hacked off. Although she was still alive, there was serious damage to her face. In the process of removing her horns, the nasal bone was badly fractured and a section completely removed, exposing the sinus cavities and nasal passage, added to that there was a severe infestation of maggots. It is assumed that she was immobilised (darted) with an opioid drug and left to die. Against all odds she survived.
Various Eastern Cape wildlife veterinarians assisted with supportive veterinary treatment and translocated her to holding facilities at Shamwari Game Reserve. Dr Gerhard Steenkamp from the University of Pretoria’s Veterinary Faculty and one of the expert vets from Saving the Survivors, travelled to
Shamwari to assess her condition, upon which it was established that she could indeed be saved and undertook major surgery on Monday 18th May. The damage to her face was severe. The wounds had to cleaned, lots of dead and damaged tissue removed and an artificial cast fitted to cover the extensive wounds. The cast is to prevent damage while looking for food as well as to prevent bacterial infection and maggot infestation.
After surgery she was released from the boma (pens) into a small camp where she can be closely observed, and feed on natural vegetation.
It must be stressed that although her condition has improved the prognosis is still guarded. She is by no means out of danger at present she is getting excellent veterinary care. “She has got a long road ahead of her. We estimate it will take least a year until the wound is actually healed. We know this through the treatment of Lion Den, who was treated by Dr Johan Marais, who heads up Saving the Survivors and Dr William Fowlds treatment of Thandi. In both cases the will of the animal to Survive proved a telling factor.” Stated Dr Steenkamp
Dr Marias also added “We have successfully treated a rhino in the Freestate that was in a similar condition. So from experience, we believe that she has a fighting chance. With the experience of the Saving the Survivors team in the treatment of poached rhino, we believe that she has a real shot at recovery. The welfare of this rhino is paramount and we will do our utmost to ensure her comfort and survival.”
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On the 8th of June 2015 “Hope”, the rhino Survivor, underwent her third procedure to repair the catastrophic damage done to her by poachers who left her for dead.Hope, the four year old white rhino, who has become the international symbol...
Thandi and Themba, a White rhino cow and bull from the Eastern Cape were two of the very first survivors that made headlines in 2012. Both were darted, their horns hacked off and they were left to die. The reserve management found...