On Friday the 30th of August 2013, three rhinos were darted by poachers and de-horned on Kapama Game Reserve. Although one bull was killed, the remaining two cows managed to survive the ordeal and were moved to the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre (HESC), Camp Jabulani’s sister company, to be treated.
For a year, the HESC has provided a sanctuary to the two surviving rhinos, Lion’s Den and Dingle Dell. With the help of a specialist veterinary team, we have all watched as a horrific tale of rhino poaching turned into a story of hope and survival against all odds.
The animals’ horns had been neatly cut of with a chain-saw, but this left their sinus canals open and exposed, posing a massive threat to their survival.
Dr. Peter Rogers, local veterinarian, originally treated the wounds, and has played a major role in the follow-up treatments. Dr. Gerhard Steenkamp, a well-known veterinarian dentist and senior lecturer at the University of Pretoria; and Dr. Johan Marais, an equine and wildlife surgeon and lecturer at the University of Pretoria, were also consulted. They shared their ideas, knowledge and experience, which have been an invaluable resource in the long road to the animals’ recovery.
The biggest challenge in the process has been trying to keep the rhinos’ casts resilient against damage, ensuring that their wounds remained unexposed for as long as possible. As the wounds have healed, they have gotten very itchy, causing the rhinos to rub their noses against the bark of trees for some relief. In the process, their casts have been damaged, opening their wounds up to maggot infestation and infection. This has resulted in a number of restorative procedures over the course of the year.
On 22 March 2014, the veterinary team decided that the smaller rhino, Dingle Dell’s, wound had healed enough for her cast to be left off. While HESC’s curator watched the healed wound very closely over the weeks that followed, no further infection was evident. Dingle Dell had fully healed! However, Lion’s Den’s wound has taken a bit more time, and it may be a few months before the team see a full recovery. Despite this, everyone feels extremely positive about the progress that she is making, albeit slower than Dingle Dell.
The HESC owes a lot to the generous support from the public, as well as to their fantastic team of vets.