Posts Tagged With: Veterinary

Caution: Wide Load

What does it take to move a 1-2 ton animal?

Conservation efforts often mean translocation. It is sometimes in the best interest of re-population and survival to move animals into better locations. For example in Assam, India, the India Rhino Vision 2020 program aims to attain a wildlife population of at least 3,000 greater one-horned rhinos in the state of Assam by the year 2020.  This goal will be achieved by translocating rhinos from areas of high population density to new habitats, where effective protection programs can be put in place.translocating sedation

Each situation is different, varying in length of travel time to number of rhino, but the usual mode of operation consists of:
*sedating them with the help of a veterinary crew,rhinos into truck
*moving them into position onto a truck,
*driving to said location, then off loading them into a temporarily built boma (enclosure) in the new location;
*followed up with waking them, and careful monitoring of their health thereafter.translocation boma

Logistics, practical preparations, bureaucracy, transport and funding have to run simultaneously with preparation of the rhino to undertake the journey. It is a huge and delicate undertaking, and can take considerable time to put together.

Then there is the health of the animal to consider. Whenever any animal is sedated there is a health risk from the anesthetic, there is possibility of injury in transport, and the stress alone is a danger. Rhinos have died from the move.

Of course there have been less than typical moves as well.  In 2009 three black rhinos were moved from a Czech Republic Zoo to a Mkomazi sanctuary. It took 2 years of planning and a  Martinair 747 aircraft to make the 6,400 mile move.

flying rhino 2Perhaps one of the most misunderstood photos: the’ flying rhinos’, is yet another method the WWF has  taken in moving the second largest land mammal. The tranquilized  rhinos are suspended from their ankles for a short journey by helicopter to an awaiting vehicle. This is a quick and efficent way to remove them from inaccessible areas.

Any way it needs to be done-desperate times call for desperate measures. After all, there are only so many ways to move a 1-2 ton animal.

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Thandi: Plastic Surgery after Poaching

Thandi’s story started in March of 2012, when she was brought to our attention after the brutal poaching attempt on her life, along with her companion Themba.  (see previous post https://fightforrhinos.wordpress.com/2013/01/09/thandis-story/)

Thandi recovered.

After a long and painful recovery, Thandi survived. But her medical crisis is still not over. Unfortunately all of her skin which healed over her horrible scar, has been torn open after a normal interaction with another rhino.

The following is a message from Dr. William Fowlds who continues to care for Thandi:

Day 480 since the poaching of Thandi, Themba and Bull #84.

“Today we converge yet again on Kariega Game Reserve in support of the rehabilitation of Thandi the survivor of rhino poaching. Following the successes of various phases of her recovery, a recent set-back occurred when her face was damaged by a bull introduced to replace the breeding capacity lost by the poaching incident over a year ago. In a process which has involved ground breaking efforts to give her back a normal rhino life, we have been reminded just how much poaching took away from her and just how much more she still needs our support through her recovery.

This special rhino has survived against all odds and in the process captured the hearts of thousands of people around the world. Her will to survive combined with the dedication of many and the support of a growing global community of rhino lovers has created a platform which has highlighted the rhino crisis and inspired people to action in an unprecedented way. Everyone who has been drawn back to her side on this day can reflect on 15 months
where, in spite of an escalating crisis, we are more determined, more equipped and more actively committed to saving this species than ever before.Thandi skin graft

So the gravity of this day rests heavily on our shoulders. This team of professionals have the responsibility of taking Thandi safely through an anaesthetic and ground breaking surgery, and apply ways to repair her face so that she can handle the rigours of rhino life in the future. This is yet another chapter in a process which has no guaranteed outcomes. The only given is that with so many people in support of this special rhino, and what
she represents for her species, we know that we are giving her the best that we possibly can.

Two specialist veterinary surgeons from the Faculty of Veterinary Science, Onderstepoort, Dr Gerhard Steenkamp and Dr Johan Marais have returned along with a human plastic surgeon Dr Alistair Lamont and together they have spent the past 14 months collaborating and working on new techniques to repair facial damage in poached rhino. The aim of today’s procedures will be for them to assess the quality of the facial tissues and decide if they are able to apply any of these new measures of re-establishing robust rhino skin. Although extensive work has been done on dead rhino in understanding the detailed anatomy of rhino skin, none of this new knowledge has been applied
to a live animal before.sking graft thandi

We would like to thank everyone who has supported Thandi in her recovery thus far. From members of the concerned public to NGO’s who have come forward to assist, to people with specific skills in media and medical support. Those far away are as important to her recovery as those who will be at her side today.

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The surgery is over. If Thandi keeps the dressing on and all goes well, she will undergo additional procedures and more skin grafts. It is hopeful after all this, she will be able to finally have a “normal” life post poaching, and be able to engage in regular courtship activities.

Categories: Rhino Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Who ARE the Bad Guys?

Veterinary team prepares to dehorn a rhino.

Veterinary team prepares to dehorn a rhino.

*Night vision goggles

*Silenced weapons

*Darting equipment

*Bullet proof armour

*Helicopters

With a checklist like this, we could be talking about an army. Yet it is also the equipment used by the modern-day poacher. With the horn fetching more on the black market than cocaine or even gold, everyone wants a piece of the pie. The low-level men who DO the poaching are being funded by higher level organizations with whatever supplies are necessary to bring in the “goods”.

The level of corruption runs far and wide. Militias, rebel groups, intelligence officials, Irish gangsters , Vietnamese diplomats, Chinese scientists, copter pilots, antiques dealers and recently an American rodeo star who used Facebook to find  horns, are all getting their hands dirty with poaching. Even Thai prostitutes and pimps are getting involved. The prostitutes were hired by a criminal syndicate to obtain hunting permits (through some loopholes) and got “professional” hunters to make the kill and bring in the horn.

Of course poverty-stricken villagers often turn to poaching to support their families. A corrupt minority of game farmers, professional hunters, and safari operators are involved as well. But what I believe is the highest level is betrayal is the involvement of veterinarians. 

The veterinarians who work with large mammals have access to M99-a drug that is 1000 times more powerful than morphine. The supply is restricted, and supposedly only accessible by vets. Yet somehow poachers are getting their hands on this potent tranquilizer.

The majority of vets work tirelessly and fervently , giving the victims of poaching round the clock care and treatment to save their lives. Along with the rangers in the anti-poaching units, veterinarians ARE the foot soldiers in this war, an integral part of rhino and elephant survival.  As a former member of a veterinary staff, I know all too well the highs and lows of the job. There is no 9-5, no glory, and certainly not a high level of pay. But where is their passion? Their hearts have hardened, their patients betrayed in the name of greed; an unforgivable evil.

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Thandi’s Story

Thandi found poached.

Thandi found poached.

Thandi recovered.

Thandi recovered.

Amidst the hundreds of rhinos slaughtered in 2012, one rhino beat the odds. Her name is Thandi.

In early March of 2012 three rhinos were found poached in the Kariega Game Reserve. One immediately
died. The remaining two made it through the night. The survivors-Thandi (meaning love) and Themba
(meaning hope) were tended to with intense veterinary care.

Unfortunately after 24 days, Themba died.

Thandi lived. She fought a long, painful battle, but miraculously recovered. She lives without a
horn, without her companions, but she lives with hope. Perhaps the one thing that almost killed her
(having a horn) will now be her salvation.

To follow more about Thandi’s story go to http://www.helpingrhinos.org or http://www.kariega.co/about-us/help-save-our-rhino-project

Categories: Rhino Ramblings, Rhino Spotlight | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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