Rhino gets skin graft in effort to heal poaching injuries08/07/2013 09:46:31 Thandi, a rhino on Kariega Reserve, survived an attack by poachers in March 2012
July 2013. Poaching survivor Thandi, a rhino at the Kariega Game Reserve, has received ground breaking skin grafting treatment due to her wounds re-opening more than one year after being attacked by poachers.
While her initial wounds healed up some months after the incident, it is suspected that the recent damage was caused by a new rhino bull on the Eastern Cape reserve. It is hoped that the pioneering surgery will answer many unknown questions about the viability of treating poached rhino using grafting techniques which have never before been used on a rhino.
Thandi was attended to by wildlife veterinarian Dr William Fowlds of Investec Rhino Lifeline as well as two specialist veterinary surgeons Dr Gerhard Steenkamp and Dr Johan Marais along with a human plastic surgeon Dr Alistair Lamont.
Research on healing rhino attacked by poachers
One of the first questions to be answered about viability of the surgery is whether Thandi will tolerate the small pressure dressing which has been attached to the depression in her face. The Kariega monitoring team will keep a watchful eye on her and report back daily to the surgical team on her progress.
Dr Fowlds who has been treating Thandi since she was poached in March last year comments on the procedure and collaboration: "A relieved team left Kariega yesterday having completed the first of a series of reconstructive efforts on Thandi's face. Three highly respected surgeons travelled the length of the country to apply their collective experience and expertise to finding improved techniques of making Thandi's face more robust and less prone to damage in the future. Once again I am always so humbled by the dedicated efforts that converge on a few square metres of Africa and just one rhino."
Dr Fowlds comments on her recent injuries: "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. It's been more than 14 months since Thandi 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. 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 rigors of rhino life."
Graeme Rushmere, co-owner of Kariega commented, "We are all saddened by Thandi's injury. We will continue to ensure that she receives the best care possible and are so grateful to the team of Doctors and everyone involved for their expertise and commitment to Thandi's ongoing care and wellbeing."