Stress finally gets the better of dehorned rhino

2015-10-16 09:00
A Zululand wildlife vet working on iThemba in October. The wounded rhino died suddenly last Sunday night.

A Zululand wildlife vet working on iThemba in October. The wounded rhino died suddenly last Sunday night. (Supplied)

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Pietermaritzburg - iThemba the pregnant white rhino who was shot and dehorned by poachers in August this year has died.

The rhino and her 5-year-old bull calf were shot, dehorned and left to die two months ago at the Mahalela Private Game Park in Zululand.

The calf was found dead shortly after the shooting, and iThemba was found a day later, barely clinging to life with her front horn missing and a gunshot wound to the head that had partially paralysed her left front foot.

Mahalela owner Mark Dedekind immediately called in Zululand wildlife vet Dr Mike Toft who stabilised and treated her.

In partnership with Saving the Survivors’ Dr Johan Marais, the two vets came up with an innovative and ground-breaking operation to cover the gaping hole on her snout where the poachers had removed her horn.

Last month, as a result of the stress of the ordeal, iThemba aborted her baby but continued to make a remarkable recovery.

However, last Sunday night, the valiant iThemba was found dead in her boma from a possible heart attack or stroke.

“It is very sad. She had undergone many treatments and was recovering well,” said Dedekind.

Toft said iThemba’s death was very “sudden” and was a great shock to him.

“It was quite a blow. She was doing wonderfully well,” said Toft.

“There has been a major heat wave and with the stress from the incident, it hasn’t been good for her.”

Toft said footage from cameras installed in the boma showed that iThemba was not acting strangely and appeared to be “100%” until she collapsed and died.

“She was seen to be eating and then she just dropped in her tracks. She still had food in her mouth.”

He said the cause could have been a heart attack, possibly from a blood clot from the severe damage to her snout.

“She put up such a valiant effort but she was under a lot of stress, especially after she aborted the baby.

“Her death was 95% stress-induced. There was no warning, it was very unexpected and I am still shocked.”

Toft said the effects poaching had on surviving rhinos was far reaching and iThemba was evidence of this.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  animals  |  rhino poaching

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