Spencer rhino had existing conditions

2012-02-28 09:34

Johannesburg - Spencer the rhino, who died during a media demonstration of an anti-poaching treatment earlier in February, had abnormal heart, liver and kidney conditions, the Rhino Rescue Project said on Monday.

The wildlife vet in charge of the rhino's post-mortem, Charles van Niekerk, said these conditions contributed to the animal's death while he was anaesthetised.

"Each of these lesions on their own would not have been uncommon in a rhino of this age, however, cumulatively they would compromise the health of the rhino," he said in a statement.

"Poisoning as a cause of death has been specifically ruled out by toxicology tests done at Onderstepoort."

Spencer died after veterinarians administered a drug to wake him up after a microchip and tracking device were implanted in his horn. The demonstration of the procedure was held at the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve, in Sterkfontein, Gauteng on February 9.

Van Niekerk said officials would not have be able to identify Spencer's symptoms before the procedure.

"The presence of body fat would indicate that, despite these underlying conditions, the rhino was eating well and in good condition, thus making it difficult to identify these processes on visual inspection of the animal," he said.

"Any immobilisation puts the body under stress, exacerbating underlying pathology." Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve owner Ed Hern said losing animals under anaesthesia was not uncommon.

"Whenever an animal is immobilised for whatever reason, the possibility exists that said animal might not regain consciousness," he said.

"Needless to say, this does not mean we should no longer perform medical procedures on animals, only that we be aware of the risks involved every time we do."

  • christo.stone - 2012-02-28 10:35

    Poor animal :( Still the fault of rhino poachers as without them there wouldn't have been a need to do the procedure. RIP Spencer.

  • Peter - 2012-02-28 11:23

    Having to anaesthetise an animal is not the answer if it kills the same as what would have resulted in poaching. I say,put a substance on the horn that is harmful to humans (if used in the way poachers acquire the horn for) but not harmful to the animal. A chip won't save a life - just sends everyone on a wild goose chase. Make the horns useless for those behind the poachers.

      Wt - 2012-02-28 12:24

      I agree we can stop these horny poachers in different ways...

      malcolm.dale - 2012-02-28 14:08

      Correct me if I am wrong Peter, I do beleive that they actually "poison the horn" thus making it useless to anyone and that's what was done here. They say specifically that "poisoning" did not cause the death which intimates that a poison was injected into the horn. The micro chip and tracking device are "added" to enable the owners to keep an eye on the animals whilst they are still alive. I seem to remember the previous article indicating that they were poisoning the horns. May be wrong though.

      Jacques Pieter du Preez - 2012-02-28 17:45

      Peter,that is exactly what was done to Spencer. That is why it was a big thing in the media. They were putting a 'poison' into the horn that would cause illness in the humans using the horn. Trackers are fitted in all rhino horns. For both the 'poison' and trackers the animals must be anaesthetised,as they are wild animals.

  • Marion - 2012-02-28 13:39

    The poachers are the ones who should be fitted with tracking devices. Following the horn after the rhino is dead will be an exercise in futility. They will just find a way to remove the tracking device and chuck it on a bus headed for Zimbabwe.

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