Watch: groundbreaking surgery for Hope the rhino after poachers hacked off her horn and left her for dead

By Jacques Myburgh
04 May 2016

When someone gets a nose job for "medical reasons", you wouldn't be blamed for scoffing -- but in the case of Hope the rhino, this surgery was far from purely cosmetic.

This 12-year-old rhino’s horn was taken from her by poachers last year in the Eastern Cape, leaving her with a gaping wound on her nose.

Veterinarian Dr Johan Marais and his team at Onderstepoort were able to give Hope the chance at a new life yesterday.

Read more: Rhino that survived horrific poaching attack gives birth to healthy calf

“Hope’s poachers were not professionals,” says Marais. “Poachers normally know exactly where a rhino’s horn ends and the upper jaw begins, but these poachers thought the more they cut, the more horn they’d get.”

Marais says they are attempting to close the wound by placing fibreglass over it and fastening it with orthopaedic screws.

Marais and his team are the only ones in the world who are currently doing this procedure, and they have helped 10 rhinos with this procedure thus far.

“We developed this technique over a period of two years,” he says.

Read more: Legalising rhino horn trade will add to poaching – NSPCA

But in Hope’s case they had to alter the procedure because of the fact that the poachers took her upper jaw. “Because Hope has an open wound, making her vulnerable to infection, we had to use sterile rubber bands to draw the ends of the wound together.”

Since last year Hope has had 10 operations to try and heal her wound.

“Hope still has a long road to travel, and it will take about a year before she is completely recovered. If we can reduce the wound by 1 cm now, it will already be progress.”

According to Marais Hope will still be able to breed. “She’s already able to breed, but rhinos tend to be rough with each other when socialising in the wild. We’ve left her boma open to allow her to socialise with the other rhinos, but we could she she’s shy and careful. The wound must be hurting her badly, and she went back into her boma almost immediately.”

Marais says Hope is recuperating on a farm in Bela-Bela.

Please note the video below is graphic and might be upsetting for sensitive viewers.

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