The Southern White rhino was thought to have gone extinct in the late 19th century before a small group of less than 100 were found in 1895 and resulted in one of the greatest conservation stories as the numbers were brought back up to nearly 20,000 today. Unfortunately we have slipped back into the greed where people are poaching these beautiful creatures for use of their horns in Asia.
A few days ago we found a young White rhino female that had been in a serious fight with another rhino and had been severely injured. The 5-year-old rhino had suffered multiple stab wounds and was looking worse for wear. We took pictures and immediately sent them off to a wildlife vet so that he could advise us on how to proceed. In any other circumstances we would let nature take its course but due to the fact that the rhino is endangered and currently under so much pressure, we decided to intervene and treat the injuries of this unfortunate individual.
Our Safari Manager, Andre, set out on foot to track down the injured rhino and stay with her until I could bring the vets through. Sitting in the heat of the day, Andre babysat the young rhino until I came in with the vet so that we could dart and treat her. The first step was for the vet to decide how much of the potent anaesthetic, M99, to give the rhino. The dosage decided on was about the same as what would be given to an impala because rhinos are so sensitive to the drug. The sleeping rhino was rudely awakened by the pinch as the dart entered her rump.
She stood there staring at us defiantly as we waited for the drug to take effect. Suddenly the rhino began to sway and was unsure of its footing. She wobbled and tried to keep herself up but the drug was too strong and she eventually went down. We rushed in and covered her eyes and put earplugs in to ensure as little stress as possible. The wounds had an odour of death to them and she looked in really bad shape. The vet quickly inserted a drip into a vein in her ear as her skin is too thick to find a vein anywhere else. The drip contained a strong and long lasting antibiotic. Next step was to get the vitals of the rhino and ensure that she was stable whist being treated. A thermometer was inserted into the anus, a pulse oximeter was attached to watch her heart rate and oxygen levels and the treatment then began.
She had been stabbed several times all over her body with some of the wounds being almost 10 inches deep. The vet said that the fight had probably occurred about two weeks ago judging by the size of the maggots that were feeding on the dead flesh inside the wounds. This might sound horrible but they actually were doing the rhino a favour by cleaning away the dead flesh and ensuring that no infection took place in the wounds. The vet needed to remove the maggots now as he would be doing the cleaning and there was no more need for the little flesh eaters. A diluted solution of hydrogen peroxide was injected into each of the wounds to get the maggots out and they came crawling out everywhere.
Once all the maggots were out, the vet started to treat each wounds with a concoction of sprays and a bright green solution nicknamed “Angels Pee” because of its miraculous healing abilities. Swabs of the solution were inserted into the wounds as well as bitumen to ensure no further infection. We were amazed that none of her stab wounds had hit any vital organs and after an hour and forty five minutes she was injected with the antidote to the anaesthetic. What an amazing few hours helping this beautiful young girl and we are hoping that she will pull through this ordeal. We will have to get the vet out again in about 2 weeks to do a follow up treatment. We have seen her a few times over the last few days and she is looking considerably better. She is feeding and doing well. We will keep you updated as to her health and will do a follow up story if she is darted again.