Two Eastern Cape white rhinos injured by poachers last week are alive but visibly stressed, according to the latest reports from Schotia Private Game Reserve and the veterinary team.
Both rhino, named Bonnie and Clyde, had their horns removed during a sophisticated poaching operation. The incident was reported on 30 May after rangers at the reserve located the two missing rhino who were found hiding in thick bush. It is suspected that they had been darted and left for dead by the poachers after their horns were sawn off.
One week later, the physiological trauma which these animals were subjected to after being left to die, remains the reason for much concern, particularly for Clyde, the male rhino.
“Rhino anaesthetics need to be very carefully monitored and adjusted within a few minutes as their blood oxygen levels plummet quickly,” says Dr William Fowlds, of Investec Rhino Lifeline. He was called to the scene immediately after the rhinos were located. “In this case, they were left to die by the poachers and we suspect that they would have been under for between 12 and 36 hours before they were found. The fact that they are still alive is a miracle.”
Blood samples taken after the incident last week have indicated that both rhino might suffer long term damage from the poachers’ anaesthetic darts.
“The initial results from the Cape Town laboratory indicate that measurements of muscle trauma are in excess of 700% higher than the normal range,” says Dr Fowlds. “The concern here is that this muscle damage may translate into kidney damage as dangerous chemicals are released into the blood stream from these traumatised cells. Sometime these effects are only apparent several weeks later which means we still have a long way to go before we know their fate. Following a second round of treatments and blood samples which are being processed by Idexx laboratories, initial biochemistry results show that Bonnie appears to be improving.”
Both rhino have been seen at the water hole which is a positive sign of recovery, but staff and vets at the reserve are keeping a close eye on their progress.
“Cyde appears to be in worse condition than Bonnie,” says Dr Fowlds. “He has been spotted walking around in the thicker bush, his movements were sluggish and he seemed to be in some pain. Although showing some improvement in the way he is moving around as well as the condition of his eyes, which were superficially damaged during the poaching, his blood tests indicate that he is still suffering from on-going internal problems. These resulted from the tissue damage caused by pressure on large muscle groups, extended periods of low oxygen and poor circulation.”
A decision will be taken within the next two days regarding further supportive treatments.
The official death toll in SA so far for 2013 stands at 367 and projections indicate that the 2012 figure of 668 will be surpassed before the final quarter of 2013.
Anyone with information can contact the Wilderness Foundation‘s Forever Wild Rhino Protection Initiative Hotline on: 0786969494.