Mutilated rhino receives elephant skin bandage

  • 16/08/2015
(Photo: 3 News)
(Photo: 3 News)

A 12-year-old rhino that had her face mutilated by poachers after her horn is being treated by South African veterinarians with a bandage made from elephant skin.

The rhino, who has been dubbed Hope, was shot on August 5 while she roamed Pongola wildlife park in KwaZulu-Natal province, CNN reports.

Johan Marais, a wildlife surgeon for the University of Pretoria says when Hope was shot, the poachers tried to retrieve both her horns but could only manage to get away with one. He told CNN her front horn had been entirely hacked off and the poachers had started to remove the second horn as well.

Unfortunately during the attack, Hope's five-year-old calf was also shot and mutilated, but died from its injuries.

Mr Marais, from the organisation Saving the Survivors, which focuses on the rescue and treatment of injured rhinos and endangered animals, has been working with elephant skin as an alternative and experimental bandage.

He says common practices utilising fibreglass and plastics don't fit the animal face properly. Elephant skin is the perfect material, as it is a strong, lightweight, flexible material.

"I decided with this rhino to make use of elephant skin, as it is quite tough, and hope it will withstand the rubbing efforts of the rhino and the stainless steel sutures we used to fasten the skin on to the rhino's face," Mr Marais told CNN.

He says he obtained the elephant skin from a local taxidermist, and although it may be ironic to use parts from another endangered species, it certainly helped in this instance.

Rhinos are a target for poachers in South Africa, with 1215 killed in 2014. Their horns are believed to hold medicinal qualities in some Asian cultures and can sometimes be worth up to $60,000 on the black market.

3 News