Thandi and Themba made headlines around the world in March 2012 following a horrific poaching incident at Amakhala Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape. Veterinary teams worked around the clock to try to save both rhino who suffered extensive wounds after their horns were hacked off by poachers. A third rhino was killed during the same incident.
Unfortunately Themba also succumbed to his injuries a few weeks later, but Thandi has become a worldwide figure of hope in the poaching crisis, with millions watching her healing process via social media. Her facial wounds recovered fully, with new skin growing over the gaping nasal cavities, and she was able to reintegrate into the wild with other rhino.
However, this week, Thandi’s progression back into normal rhino society suffered a massive setback following a facial injury which will require renewed surgical intervention.
It is suspected that one of the bull rhino, recently introduced to restore breeding capacity at the Kariega Game Reserve, may have been the cause of the injury.
Head to head confrontation is part of normal rhino behaviour but in this case, it resulted in severe facial injuries to Thandi whose horn was hacked off by poachers, leaving her without the ability to protect herself against other rhinos’ advances.
“It’s been more than 14 months since she was poached and to think we are still having to deal with the complications of her ordeal is a reminder to us of yet another implication of poaching,” says Amakhala vet and Investec Rhino Lifeline’s Dr Will Fowlds. “In spite of our best efforts to restore her face to some degree of normal functionality, it appears that her new skin simply didn’t have the capacity to deal with the rigours of rhino life.”
Her injuries were assessed on June 11, 2013 and the original team of consultants will now be putting their heads together to come up with a treatment plan for her.
As always, she will get the best attention as we bring together a team of passionate specialists to attend to her.
“Thandi has already taught us so much about poaching related injuries, which we are now starting to apply across the country to other victims,” says Dr Fowlds.
“It appears there is still much to learn about integrating survivors back into normal rhino society. The tragedy of her story continues as we now progress into the lows of surgery once again following the highs of seeing her doing so well and how beautifully her face had recovered.”
The Wilderness Foundation supports Investec Rhino Lifeline which was established to help provide emergency aid, medical care and essential knowledge resources to injured rhinos. Dr Will Fowlds is the appointed vet for Investec Rhino Lifeline and uses his expertise and experience to help save rhinos wounded in poaching incidents. He is also involved in various educational projects about the rhino poaching crisis.