Orphaned rhino calf recovering from gunshot wound

2016-12-13 10:49
FILE: Rhino poaching survivor Thandi with her newly born calf in the Kariega Game Reserve near Port Elizabeth, in the eastern Cape Province. (Adrian Steirn, Kariega Game Reserve, AP)

FILE: Rhino poaching survivor Thandi with her newly born calf in the Kariega Game Reserve near Port Elizabeth, in the eastern Cape Province. (Adrian Steirn, Kariega Game Reserve, AP)

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Nelspruit - A rhino calf that walked around in the bush for more than a week with a horrific gunshot wound after its mother was poached at a game reserve in Mpumalanga is currently recovering at the Care for Wild Africa sanctuary outside Nelspruit.

The sanctuary, which takes care of orphaned rhinos, was called in to assist with finding the 9-month-old calf following the discovery of its mother's carcass.

An eight-day search with helicopters, drones and ground teams eventually resulted in the dazed calf being found on December 3 with a gaping high-calibre gunshot wound on her torso.

The calf was sedated and her wound was cleaned out before she was rushed to Care for Wild Africa.

"The search operation was absolutely immense. We made use of drones, a helicopter, a microlight, a fixed-wing plane and ground teams. Even after tracking her spoor and having a general idea of the area she would be, it was like looking for a needle in a haystack," said Care for Wild Africa spokesperson Gary Shneider.

Shneider said it was extremely uncommon for a baby rhino to survive without its mother's milk for eight days.

Lucky escape

"But she somehow did. Not to mention that she had a serious gunshot wound from the poachers that killed her mom. She is being looked after and treated by a team of incredible vets. She will begin the long road to rehabilitation where she will be able to get another chance at life. She's drinking milk already and we are very confident in her recovery," said Shneider.

Nelspruit veterinarian Dr Albertus Coetzee, who assisted with the rescue, said the calf had been extremely lucky to escape with its life.

"Although the wound looks bad, the bullet fortunately missed bony structures and vital organs. But if she had been out in the bush for another week she definitely wouldn't have survived. We're currently managing her injury and using sedatives to help her deal with the stress and adapt to her new circumstances."

Coetzee added that he couldn't help but be overwhelmed by the sadness of the situation.

"The one thing that stands out is the overwhelming sadness of it all. For a calf to lose its mother so senselessly is heart-breaking," he said. 

Care for Wild Africa has previously successfully rehabilitated orphaned rhinos with injuries including severe machete wounds, torn off ears and foot infections.

Read more on:    mbombela  |  animals  |  rhino poaching

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