Everyday there is another poaching, most of the time another life taken. But for the “lucky” few, they survive.
For those rhinos, it’s not just a matter of providing a bit of veterinary care, then sending them on their way. The physical and emotional toll it takes lasts the rest of their days.
A couple of months ago we were in Kariega Reserve and had the privilege of meeting one of my heroes, Thandi, the rhino who cheated what seemed certain death.
On our second siting of Thandi and “baby” Thembi, it was immediately obvious from a distance that something was different. As she moved through the grass, happily grazing with Thembi not far behind, the sun shone off her face showing a glint of red. Moving in closer, there was no doubt it was bloody and raw.
After numerous skin grafts, being anesthetized and treated, this is as good as it will ever be for her. Even the best of veterinary care and creative “bandaging”, cannot hold up to rhino life. There is a bull in the area who does what comes natural, the equivalent of rhino flirting. Through pushes and bumps, the thin skin over her nasal area isn’t as sufficient as the protection of her own horn.
She doesn’t seem to be in pain, as she happily munches her grass or gives Thembi “love taps”. In fact, the blood was the only sign something was wrong.
But as Thembi grows older, Thandi will mate again, hopefully making Thembi a big sister. Rhino mating is not a gentle process!
The Kariega staff and veterinary team keep a close eye on their star. She is in good hands, but seeing the occasional re-opening of the wound is a constant reminder of her struggle, of the long road we are all traveling in the poaching war to prevent other rhinos from the same horrible fate.