All The Latest News on Kariega Game Reserve's Themba and Thandi's Fight For Survival
On 2nd March 2012 three white rhinos at Kariega Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape of South Africa fell victim to the poachers. One bull was dead when the rangers found him, but another bull and a cow survived the ordeal - for now! The two surviving rhinos have been named Themba (the male) and Thandi and are being treated and cared for on a daily basis by the Kariega team and vet Dr William Fowlds.
Themba and Thandi's fight for survival continues to be told on a daily basis. Helping Rhinos have been especially moved by this story having spent 6 weeks volunteering at Kariega in 2010. For this reason we have made the Kariega's Save Our Rhinos Campaign our inaugural 'Featured Project'
Thandi is continuing to make remarkable progress in her recovery from the poaching attack on March 2nd. These pictures show what an incredible animal she is - surely a inspiration to all of us to go forward and beat the poachers!
Thank you to Jason and the whole Kariega team for your unwavering dedication to Thandi's recovery.
The latest news from Kariega is that Thandi is continuing to make excellent progress in her recovery from the poachers.
You can see the latest pictures of Thandi on the Kariega Facebook. This link will take you directly to the photos of Thandi
5th June 2012
Some great news from Kariega as yesterday the shared the latest picture of Thandi. As you can see, Thandi looks to to be making great progress in her rocoverry.
We will share more news as when we receive it from Kariega
26th April 2012
Some great news from Kariega earlier this week as Thandi underwent her latest round of treatment on Monday 23rd April.
The news from Dr Fowlds and the Kariega team was very positive as Thandi continues to defy the odds make solid progress in her recovery.
We have posted one picture here from Kariega of Dr Fowlds and the team treating Thandi, and you can see the whole album on the Kariega Facebook page by clicking here: Thandi treatment
4th April 2012
Here is a link to the latest video from Kariega. This is day 33 of Thandi's treatment and this clip shows the work that Dr Fowlds and his team are undertaking
4th April 2012
Here is the latest report from Dr Fowlds on Thandi's treatment yesterday.
"Today is day 33. The last time we worked on Thandi was 23 days ago and I was very apprehensive at what we might find under the gruesome exterior of her facial injuries. The Kariega team for today’s procedure consisted of 25 individuals on-site but with so many thousands willing her to get well and anxious for news of her progress, we feel like only one small component of this rhino’s support network. Thandi’s Team.
As usual, we gathered before the procedure to go through the plan. An addition to the team today was Dr Gerhard Steenkamp who is a veterinary surgeon from Onderstepoort. Dr Steenkamp, and his colleagues will be bringing specialised skills and experience into Thandi’s continuing support plan and his role today was to assess her facial injuries and begin applying whatever surgical support the growing team of surgeons believe she may require.
We worked with her for almost an hour today which was longer than we had planned for. She was amazing once again, surprising us with her resilience and tenacity having been through such a horrific experience and showing her inner strength even at this stage of her recovery. Not once was I concerned about her anaesthetic, her blood pressure and oxygen levels were good throughout and this gave us the platform Dr Steenkamp needed to carry out his surgical activities.
The first stage in her facial treatment today involved removing as much dead tissue as possible. Most of what is not viable consists of bone which has been severely exposed and separated from its blood supply. If we allow any of this dead bone tissue to remain, it could end up as a decomposing fragment of tissue inside a mass of healing flesh and hence a long term source of infection. Extensive time was spent literally breaking off pieces of bone until bleeding indicated viable tissue. The maggots are back and some of the deep recesses of her mutilated skull where inhabited by them and needed to be removed. Many other bone cavities contained compacted mud which had dried into solid plugs which impede healing and so had to be scooped out and flushed.
Tragically, there are still panga marks deep into her skull bones creating fissure lines and crevices which required attention.
Once as much dead tissue had been removed as possible, we could get a clear picture of her healing progress. The outside extremities of the area are clean and the recovering skin margin is creeping in slowly from the peripheries one millimetre at a time. There are some good banks of new tissue often referred to as granulation tissue which has encroached into many of the deep trenches left by the pangas between the bone structures and the skin. She still has significant areas of exposed bone towards the middle of the wound but most surprising of all has been the amount of new tissue which has been created inside the exposed sinuses. So there is real measurable progress visable without any major stumbling blocks apparent at this stage.
These are still early days yet as we still have a long way to go but what we witnessed today was very encouraging. At this stage we are not sure how much surgical assistance she may require but many of the building blocks of re-construction are appearing, which for now is as much as we can expect.
Every time we work with her face I am both appalled by the extent of her wounds, and encouraged by the determination that this body possesses to recover. In spite of the destruction of her face to such a degree that 33 days later she still has a mutilated crater which is 37 cm long and 19 cm wide. Regardless of the long hours she spent struggling on her side, in shock and agony, she is determined to survive. Under the constant threat of complications from maggots, infection and rotting bone fragments, Thandi has made her choice, this girl wants to live and she wants to live well. In spite of everything she has gone through, this living, breathing, feeling animal just keeps marching down her road towards recovery.
What an inspiration, this one rhino called Thandiswa, is proving to be. What a beacon of hope she is providing for us when there are so many horrendous stories and statistics drawing dark clouds over the future of this species. What and example of how we need to FACE-UP to the realities of poaching, stop talking and start doing.
Thandi, you are a true champion of the cause. You are beautiful.
In honour of what this amazing rhino is teaching us, in admiration of her courage to fight against indescribable odds, in amazement of the amount of awareness she generates for her kind and out of respect for the example she is to us, I would like to make a very personal request to every single person who reads this. This request is not from Kariega Game Reserve, this request is from me, Dr Will Fowlds.
“Please make a choice today to contribute to the care of SURVIVORS of rhino poaching, like Thandi, across our country.
This request is small and this request is simple. I am asking you to donate the equivalent of the average price of one injection, at least. On an average treatment day, Thandi will get twenty-two medication injections at an average price of R 52-00. My request is for at least one injection of R 50-00.”
The value of an “injection” excludes professional and labour fees, travel and vehicle costs, helicopter expenses and other medications and anaesthetic costs which are by far the bigger costs.
I will be explaining in detail in the following update how to go about this and how we intend managing and using this fund. But, today you get to choose to do something active for rhino like Thandi (meaning LOVE), today is your day to show you LOVE rhino, today is your day to be an active part of the “Thandi Team”, today is your day to give an INJECTION which will make a difference: Please support the “Thandi Rhino Treatment Fund” initiative. You can start now by drawing up your injections."
3rd April 2012
Dr Fowlds and the Kariega team today conducted the latest treatment on Thandi's face. While there is still a long way to go, all the signs are very positive.
The pictures to the right were taken during and just after the treatment.
31st March 2012
Here is the next report from Dr Fowldes. It is a lengthly report but is very well worth a read. There is much to learn from detail that Dr Fowldes goes in to.
"Today I spent a wonderful hour “walking with dinosaurs”, well crawling actually. I needed to confirm for myself the status of Thandi’s face and in particular her exposed sinuses, which the monitoring team have been reporting on so diligently. Mike phoned to say she was with the others in a fairly good area amongst patchy bush so I rushed down there and after 45 minutes of tense manoeuvring I stood a short distance from these magnificent beasts.
What a privilege it is to be a part of their world even for a brief moment, my heart pounding as the adrenalin of this thrilling moment pumped life into every artery. Breathtaking moments to cherish and motivate even the most weathered soul.
To see Thandi up close again, to hear her breathe and make her quiet huffs and mews as she interacted with the other rhino, was simply breathtaking. I had to fight down the swells of emotion that pushed up from within, tossing my feelings between peaks of delight and troughs of shame. By rights, human and animal, there should be so much to savour in moments like these. Undetected, in a space of rare privilege, I crouched in the presence of these giants. For a long while, as I waited for Thandi to stand up, I considered this predicament. A servant keeper, sent to that place by the concern of ten thousand or more to report on the progress of just one of the most magnificent creatures alive on this planet. The joy of the moment could have been there for the taking but the reason for being there denied all that. One day I shall return.
Her body condition is holding well, and she is moving well, apparently eating well and showing some signs of psychological recovery in that she is slowly, very slowly, increasing her amount of normal behaviour. We actually don’t know what she must feel inside, we can only wonder. She does have some signs that her facial wounds worry her. She has been doing quite a bit of rubbing on both sides of her head as well as the front part of her face above her lip. This is evident in the red soil marks over these areas. I am not sure if this is her response to the pain, the “itch” of healing or the irritation of infection. Her exposed sinuses have accumulated a lot of debris to the point now that they are almost completely occluded. She has a small trickle of milky mucous running from both sinuses with the left side looking slightly whiter which could indicate some infection now in there. It doesn’t appear to be severe enough to justify an immediate treatment so we have scheduled her immobilisation for 4 days time. The skin all around her gaping holes appears to be granulating well but it is impossible to assess the state of her bone tissues under all that debris and scab-like tissue build up.
I was hoping to be able to confirm that her right eye, which had a small corneal injury still present at day 14, had healed up but I was not able to do that today so this will have to wait for a closer inspection. Her vision appears to be normal so we are hoping for a good report here. Themba’s eye injury never healed up during his struggle so this is an area of concern for survivors. Their eyes are either traumatised from rubbing on vegetation while they lie and struggle or, need I say it, in some cases the poachers actually hack at their eyes with pangas, we presume to blind them and make it more difficult for them to get away. The other callous act which is driven by the same motive, is that they chop off their ankle tendons and hack at their spines so that they cannot run away. No human!
We received some additional blood results back which, Prof Reyers suggested we investigate. The hope is build confidence in other reliable indicators of the status of muscle trauma in cases like these. This enzyme, LDH, was still 8 times higher than the normal range for Themba on day 23. On day 10 Thandi still had LDH levels which were four times the top end of the normal range and in her case very little liver damage to speak of. As more information like this comes through, and with the help of Prof Reyers, we start making sense of these findings and looking out for indications of problems.
Certainly, on the value of these tests, Thandi appears to have suffered more damage to muscle than what she was letting on. Her next blood tests will hopefully confirm good recovery in this area. In relation to Thandi, and future survivors, being able to run every possible test we think could provide relevant information during their recovery stages, will greatly improve our level of understanding.
These tests are expensive and amount to a substantial amount when added up over time. IDEXX, the lab we have been using, have been as moved as we all are by their story and have committed full lab support for Themba and Thandi as well as covering their costs.
This is yet another inspiring example of how people and companies are getting behind this fight by giving freely whatever they can, because so many really, really care. Apart from the many generous donations which have off-set some of the veterinary costs, we have had donations in expertise and hands-on assistance from many areas. To name but a few to emphasise the point, Prof Reyers in clinical pathology, Paul Mills in recording so much of this in broadcast quality footage, Grant Soule and Warne Rippon for helicopter support whenever we needed it, many Kariega volunteers as well as a growing team of specialist surgeons in Dr’s Steenkamp, Marias and Lamont. From afar Larry Witmer and his team from Ohio who have been funnelling in some amazing images to help our understanding of the anatomical damage using CT scan data and hi-tech imaging, and the list grows almost daily.
People in press and media, conservationists like Braam Malherbe, poets, sculpters, NGO’s and rhino activists all pouring passionate commitment into this process. Then there are the comments and messages constantly pouring into the Kariega facebook and twitter portals reminding us how much you all care. You have no idea how uplifting this all is for those of us that are at the coal face of this battle. Some days I don’t know how to even begin to start as I sit down to write the next update. My heart is battered and I feel completely drained by human savagery and animal agony.
Then I start to read your comments and one after the other, without one single exception, your adoration for these rhino and your admiration for that whole human effort that we refer to as the Kariega team, because it is, starts to pick me up and carry me on. I know that every single one of the team feel the same way. It is energising and inspirational. I hear of folks who had grown weary and despondent after years in the trenches who now are rejuvenated by your actions and kind words. Suddenly, there is a new wave of enthusiasm out there as their screams of anger and frustration which went out unanswered into a dark world, come bouncing back amplified now by the swelling ranks of determination shouting “WE HAVE HAD ENOUGH”.
I have students, teachers and school kids coming up with their own special ways of adding momentum to this growing wave of desire to declare what is unacceptable and actively change the current tragic status of rhino.
I am currently a witness to a phenomenon which is building all around us, growing daily from a swell to a small tidal wave but with the potential to become a tsunami. As we each do out our small bit each day, one step in front of the other, we feed off passion of those on either side of us carrying each other forward. Oh wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could flood this story into every aspect of society, opening the world’s eyes to this tragedy, changing the hearts of all humanity to appreciate and desire to always have the privilege and the opportunity of spending time at the feet of these giants. Because its at places like this, that we find food for our souls. What price, what value can we place on this? How much are we prepared to give of ourselves to save this for our own sakes and those who we love?"
30th March 2012
Another picture from the Kariega team of Thandi
29th March 2012
Thandi is continuing to do well as she recovers from her injuries. The Kariega team have reported that she is often seen with other rhinos and is behaving as normally as could be expected.
Dr Fowlds and his team are nor making a plan in reagrds to the next stage of her treatment.
The Picture opposite was taken on 27th March by the Kariega team, and while still not a nice image to have to look at, it does show that her facial injuries are healing.
27th March 2012
The following heart felt message is the latest from Dr Fowldes on the passing of Themba. It is a long article but there are also some strong messages. If everyone who reads this message can DO ONE THING to help protect the future of rhinos then we can make a difference!
"Themba’s passing has been desperately tragic and I know that everyone at Kariega is hurting badly having been so intimately involved in his personal struggle to survive. Having deliberated so much about putting him to sleep the day before, his inability to get himself out of the waterhole was a clear indication that he had grown too weak to manage even the simple things he was used to doing.
As I said on day 23 the benefit of hindsight would be the judge of my decisions and now that all information has been revealed, I have to concede that I made the wrong call two days ago. This is my burden, and mine alone.
From the start of this campaign to save these animals we have been determined to ensure that whatever the outcome, I would consult with as many people as possible, give whatever treatment we thought was necessary and ensure that whatever we learned from Themba and Thandi would be used to improve the chances of future survivors. To be true to this promise, under very difficult circumstances, I conducted a post mortem on him with the aid of some of the Kariega team who have been close to him.
What I found hidden under his thick protective skin, has extended my admiration for him even further. The evidence of that first night of assault and what his body endured as he lay there, weakened by pain, loss of blood and the poacher’s drugs, was astounding. It could never be ascertained how long he has been in that position against his left side with his back leg under the weight of his body, so we never knew the exact extent of his injuries. Our normal options to x-ray or scan his body, as we would a smaller animal or pet, simply were not available to us given the size of him. We did our best to use conventional tests on bloods cells and serum to try and get an indication of the extent and progress of conditions not visible from the outside. But the harsh truth of it all, is that Themba’s injuries we far more extensive and far more severe than any of these indicators were able to tell us.
Not only was his bad leg severely damaged by the absence of life giving blood on that first night, he also had extensive damage to the muscles down the left side of his rib cage (intercostals) as well as muscle damage into his left front leg (pectoral muscle groups). The fact that he was able to move as well as he did in the front part of his body is a testimony to the resilience of this rhino. What the post mortem has revealed is that he would never have regained adequate use of his leg and in my mind, with this information now at hand, I now know that his passing was a blessing.
We buried him where he lay and as the ground proudly accepted him back, he took with him the tension that had become a part of that beautiful valley for the past 24 days.
This ordeal he has endured, set in motion by the senseless greed of men who know nothing of their suffering and probably don’t care, this fight which has revealed to us a will to survive beyond our previous comprehension, this tragedy which has captured the hearts of so many; what will his story teach us? What will Themba’s legacy be?
Does that will to survive not tell us the story of his ancestors, who survived when hundreds of thousands of others didn’t? Does his ability to hide such extensive injuries not tell us of a species who have been through the worst of what man and nature could throw at them and made it? Is his story not entwined with other stories that tell of the good side of man, which show that when we do care enough, we do have the ability to bring species like this back from the brink? Themba fought with such bravery to overcome that which the poachers stole from him. Kariega stood with him and gave him the best chance that they could offer him. Many others poured their time and assistance in helping us be the best we could be for him, and still we failed. Still I failed.
The past day’s events have taken me to the lowest point of my battle to help save a species. I know many others feel the same. What we do now is the true test of our resolve to overcome the evil that threatens to overwhelm the worlds remaining rhino. Our ability to act, to actually do something to make a difference, will be the measure of who we are.
On Day 14 I wrote, “Themba and Thandi, surrounded by all we value in nature, live on as icons of animal suffering and the determination to survive. They stand guard at the gate, one strong and one weak, that will lead to the demise of thousands more species because of our apathy. They are adopted, as champions of a cause which goes far beyond “Saving the Rhino” because if we don’t save the Rhino, who move us to this extent, what hope do we have of saving the rest.”
Even though Themba’s life is ended, he has moved us and his legacy lives on. From now on we focus all our treatment efforts on Thandi, even more determined to keep searching for ways to do better for rhino than what we currently can. The legacy of Themba, and all he has taught us, remains at the gate, with Thandi, reminding us of our shortcomings, motivating us to do more, so much more. My promise to him was that I will do everything that I possibly can to make every single day that he suffered count.
I gave two talks to schools today one at Kingwood College and one at St Andrews Prep. Over 600 school children who face the very real possibility of their adult lives devoid of rhino. These young lives are hungry to help save this species and what a powerful force they could be. After the second talk the boys of St Andrews Prep placed out almost 900 crosses along the side of the busy road which passes the school. Each cross representing a rhino killed by poachers since the beginning of 2010. Themba who has carried the heaviest of crosses, is represented there with so many others in the killing fields, a symbol of our shame, an icon of their struggle, an ambassador with the freedom to take their story around the world...with your help.
26th March 2012
The Kariega team have today released this video of the moments when Themba was found, having lost his fight for survival. We know it is not an easy watch, but please take the time to watch this video and use the shocking pictures to DO ONE THING to help the fight against rhino poaching - share this footage with your friends and family, and ask them too to DO ONE THING... thank you
25th March 2012
Kariega Game Reserve have just announced that unfortunately Themba passed away this morning after failing to remove himself from a waterhole. At Least Themba is no longer in pain.
We must continue this fight, and all DO ONE THING to help protect Thandi and the rest of the worlds rhinos population.
"It is with a huge sense of grief that we regret to inform you of the passing of Themba this Sunday morning. In his compromised state he failed to removed himself from a waterhole he had been drinking at. In spite of efforts to assist him he passed away just after 9am. The whole Kariega team is devastated by this loss after such a dedicated effort to save his life. Our heart felt appreciation to all those that have extended their support over the past 3 weeks. We will miss him dearly and re-commit ourselves to keeping his legacy alive in an effort to spare all rhino from suffering the same fate."
24th March 2012
As Dr Fowldes starts by saying in today's update, he did not expect to leave Kariega today with Themba still alive - but Thmba has once again proved he is fighter and is living up to the meaning of his name 'HOPE'...
The lab finally received the blood samples from 4 days back and they ran them onto their analysers immediately and let me know straight away, which was such a help. I consulted with Prof Reyers who has been assisting with the interpretation of the blood tests and of so much benefit when there are elements of doubt creeping into this case.
Clinically he has deteriorated since these samples were taken so any sign of a marked deterioration in the major indicators, compared to the week before that, would have confirmed the worst for me. Surprisingly, although many indicators are still very worrying, there were signs of some improvement in his liver circumstances, his kidneys showed a very mild deterioration but these were only fractionally over normal limits before. His indicators of inflammation do show a shift some up and some down but there was still regeneration of these cells indicating that his bone marrow was still functioning. The most concerning indicators were that his protein levels have been dropping and there are indicators of dehydration although mild. The conclusion was that there are not indicators of major system collapse or organ failure. Four days old, but positive.
I then approached Themba on foot to guage his levels of alertness and went in very close on purpose to force him to use his leg. His temperament is still encouraging in that he is responsive and while I was close to him he took a few mouthfuls of food. The use of his leg remains the same as he can hardly take any weight on it. The discharge from his leg has improved mildly over the past 2 days and is more bloody than before.
With this information I decided to immobilised him with a very low dose of anaesthetic. The final barrier for me was to do a quick evaluation of his leg which, to my great relief, hadn’t got any worse since I was last in there. The decision to delay his euthanasia was made. We kept him down just long enough to give him a full spectrum of injections before waking him up. He recovered well and has taken a few mouthfuls of food since.
This is such a tough call to make and I am sure that many will question my judgement given 23 days of struggle for him. I am comfortable that full consideration to all circumstances have taken us this far and consultation with other veterinary experts has given some guidance from outside of his case. Should I have to go back on this decision and put him down tomorrow or later, we will all look back and know that I have made the wrong call. For now, without the benefit of that hindsight, he lives to fight another day."
22nd March 2012
Here is the latest news from Dr Fowldes. Unfortunately Themba continues to be a concern. Keep your fingers crossed!
"Sightings of Thandi confirm that she is eating and moving around normally. We still do not have good images of her face so difficult to be sure of her condition but I am comfortable that we can maintain low levels of concern for her.
Themba on the other hand has not been moving around very much. He remains close to a large water hole and has been eating although not as much as he was 3 days ago. He has spent some time with his leg in the muddy water and knowing how many open spaces there are in his bad leg, I shudder to think what has gone into that leg. In my experience of other wild animals it is quite common for them to bathe in muddy water without any apparent concern for wound contamination. From a medical perspective this makes me cringe but I have witnessed some surprising recoveries so it may not be as bad as what we perceive.
After being very proud of a surgical procedure I did once on an elephants eye and the degree of care we had taken to work under sterile conditions, I had a report the next day to say that he was standing in the water hole scooping up mud with his trunk and rubbing it into his bad eye! That elephant whose eye I considered removing, recovered so well that a year later I couldn’t tell which eye I had operated on.
My levels of concern for Themba today are high. The results of his blood tests will only be available in another day or two for comparison with previous tests. These will be very important is assessing his chances especially if his levels of activity, eating and drinking behaviour have not improved by the end of tomorrow.
As always, we have been overwhelmed by your messages of encouragement which mean so much to me and I know the whole team at Kariega are sustained by your words and your efforts to help Themba and Thandi . I wish I could show these rhino how many people right across the world are willing them to get well, it would take a stadium to fit us all in. Your actions in spreading the word of their plight is starting to ripple across the planet. I know that there are already students in China who have been exposed to the video footage and are as appalled as we are. This is such encouraging news as the one aspect of the rhino fight we have been bad at has been reaching into the user countries. Please don’t underestimate the power of these images in your hands and what they can achieve in our quest to protect all rhino.
As the decision makers in global conservation plan to meet again to discuss what can be done to reduce the killing, we need to keep driving hard at the most fundamental layers of this war namely welfare, awareness and education.
The owners of Kariega gave me two directives at the start of this process, firstly to do whatever I thought best for Themba and Thandi and secondly, regardless of the outcome of either of them, to ensure that this process would be to the benefit of all remaining rhino. Kariega have been amazing in making all treatment and images freely available for use across the world.
Themba and Thandi have been even more amazing in showing us their determination to live. What we learn about these horrific wounds will certainly change the way we approach future cases such as this and with your help improve the chances of many other rhino in the future. Often it takes a crisis in life before we appreciate the things that are important to us. Will this rhino crisis teach us what’s of value in the world? Will we show ourselves that even though we face great odds, we will fight our way through this crisis, and be stronger when we face the next one.
Your response shows me that there are enough of us to beat the criminals. Let’s show them that enough IS enough."
22nd March 2012
The Kariega team, Dr William Fowldes and Paul Mills have released this video of Thandi's treatment on day 4.
As with the previous video, some of the scenes are shocking, but please help us to spread the word...
21st March 2012
Todays update from Dr Fowldes
"News from the Kariega team today is that Themba has moved over four hundred meters he has drunk well but is not eating as well as we had hoped. Levels of concern
fluctuate between medium to high . This morning he hadn't moved much and seemed to have taken his session yesterday quite badly but this afternoon he seems a little improved. Some fluid has come from the drainage holes in his leg overnight.
Comments from Prof Reyers warn of the possibility of liver infection. We are not in a position to be able to do a liver scan or other diagnostic tests to confirm what could be happening in his liver but we do know that his
Injuries are placing this organ under a lot of strain. Intensifying his anti-bioitc treatment would require even more regular immobilisations than we are currently risking as we don't have other long acting treatment options to move onto.
Thandi is moving around well but is hiding up in the thickets and we have not been able to get images of her face for several days. The tracking teams are reporting a slight smell which may also indicate that infection is building up in her facial wounds. It has been 6 days since her last treatment
and I was hoping to be able to extend her treatment intervals after the previous assessment. Once we can get more visual information regarding her face, we will make a decision re her.
Today Paul Mills, who has given an enormous amount of his time and expertise to this process, has posted the video footage of Thandi's treatment session on day 4. Reviewing these images and reliving some of those emotions is
heart wrenching, all over again.
My mind seems to have chosen to forget how many loose pieces of skin and hanging bone we had to remove from her face and how deep and random the gashes were. All that precious tissue that now needs rebuilding is absolutely useless to poachers anyway. In fact it is probably a risk for them as it needs to be disposed of somewhere before the horn gets passed onto the next criminal in the greed chain.
Such is the degree of lust for this horn that they will not risk leaving the smallest fragment of it behind and so they butcher extra inches of living, feeling flesh away in carrying out their monstrous deeds.
What will you and I do today to help stop this cruel onslaught. What weapons do we have to fight this war. Today, the whole team of dedicated, caring, rhino passionate people give you the undeniable truth of visual images that transend language and culture. How effective this weapon is depends on how far and wide you are prepared to spread it. While we struggle to bring an end to their suffering, we ask that you keep these images alive in the eyes of the world because today at least one other rhino went through this hell and tomorrow there will probably be more."
21st March 2012
Themba and Thandi continue to get incredible publicity
Click here to read a nice article on Treehugger.com: http://www.treehugger.com/endangered-species/can-social-media-save-two-rhinos-left-dead-poachers.html
20th March 2012
The latest from Dr Fowldes, who today gave further treatment to Themba. Pictures of the team at work can be seen below.
He appeared a little more lethargic to me and his leg is still giving him a lot of discomfort. Jason reported some lumps of pussy fluid every time he lay down and I wasn’t sure which hole it was coming from. On the strength of his previous blood results which showed that his kidneys were in better shape than I had thought, I made the decision to go ahead with another procedure.
We were joined by Dr Lamont today which was an honour for me as he has had more experience in the reconstruction of traumatised tissues than ten of me would ever get to see in a lifetime. As before the Kariega team of staff and volunteers swung into action and provided amazing, focused and dedicated work on a rhino which I know they would go to the ends of the earth for.
The two worrying aspects from his blood results are the escalation of chemicals released by damaged liver and muscle cells. This was expected and we will only know the real significance of these values when today’s blood results are received, and show an improvement or not. To assist with this aspect of his care I have asked for the advice of Prof Reyers an expert veterinary clinical haematologist who has also offered to lend his expertise to this process.
Themba coped better with his anaesthetic today than the previous time. His face is visibly improved and for the first time there were no maggots to be seen and there was very little necrotic tissue build up in his exposed nasal sinus.
The worrying news is that we are now seeing the full extent of his lack of blood on the night of the poaching and large areas of tissue have broken down and become infected. He has a hole on the inside of his shin that I can get my hand into and the middle third of his tibia can be felt through this hole. This cavity extends down to just short of his hock joint. The only way this infected tissue is able to escape is when he lies on his right side, so most of the time it has been sitting inside this cavity when we need it to leave the body. I was forced to make a drainage hole on the inside of his hock joint at the lowest point of the cavity through skin an inch thick and in the process I have disrupted some arterial supply which I will need to be watched carefully. The process which is taking place now inside his leg we sometime refer to as absessation. In this case we are talking about multiple cavities some of which interlead. The most important thing we can do for him now is to ensure that all dead tissues inside his leg have a chance to drain out and we need to ensure that the infection in the dead tissue does not get into the living tissues and cause more damage.
We have sent a sample away for culture and to test is if the anti-biotics we are using will be able to kill these bacteria. He woke up fine from the drugs and managed to take a small amount of weight on this leg in his sedated state before we left him. It is always such a relief to see him stand up and I know that for the next few days he will feel more comfortable.
In spite of the awful amount of damage to this leg, his body is visibly trying to make things right. My thanks to Dr Lamont who is now comprehensively on board and will begin his own process of research and forward planning in the hope that we can restore their facial injuries to some level of dignity.
The support for these two rhino is growing even more daily and we are so humbled by the efforts and contributions of so many people. It is difficult to predict what tomorrow will bring.
For today, Themba is not another statistic and for this we are so so grateful!"
20th March 2012
Kariega have today released these images of Dr Fowldes and the Kariga team working on Themba and Thandi. We know they are not pleasant to look at, but just imagine how much worse it must be for Thamb & Thandi. If the world doesn't know what goes on as a result of rhino poaching it will remain 'out of sight out of mind'.
Please DO ONE THING today to help stop rhino poaching and share these pictures... thank you
19th March 2012
Thandi is doing remarkably well, but Themba continues to be a concern.
With official figures on poached rhino during 2012 (up to 16th March) now listed as 135 animals I find it soul destroying to think that since the night of poaching of the Kariega three, we have lost 45 more rhino. This is now an average of three per day. In other words, the horrors of what we found on that morning of hell on the 2nd of March, has happened every day since then to rhino across our country. In spite of more cries of disgust, more arrests, more anti-poaching training and deployment we are currently loosing this battle. We need to do more.
Within this vortex of crime, greed, cruelty and human scum we can’t help but admire Themba and Thandi desperately trying to struggle their way out. Thandi still making slow progress away from the gravity that tried to suck her in, Themba, the boy with the courage of a warrior scarcely managing to resist the current. The irony of their story is that should they live, should they free themselves of this life threatening situation, they become immune from the curse that the orchestrators of poaching have place on all rhino. Because they will never grow horns again, the very symbol of their grand stature in natures order, they become worthless to poachers, no longer a target, free from mans greed, free from the threat that stalks every single rhino left on the planet. What a different life they will have if they make it through. Yes, survivors are important. They are important for the species and they are important for the fight. The motivate us in a war that for now we are losing. But we look at them and we learn from their fight, that every single one is important. Survivors of this level of brutality, win immunity. Please continue to support the Kariega team in fighting not just for their lives, but fighting for their immunity...for LIFE."
18th March 2012
Themba's leg continues to cause concern. If we all follow the DO ONE THING approach that Dr Fowldes talks about, we could start to make a difference!
So he appears to be holding his own for now but we will have to watch his leg wounds carefully over the next 48 hours for signs of deterioration, indicating the state of tissues under the skin.
Rangers have reported that Thandi has been seen grazing and behaving “normally” yesterday evening and she has moved about five km’s since then so her situation remains positive.
Today, I will not be of any direct assistance to Themba or Thandi as the Kariega team will do all that is required.
But today is another day we will lose more rhino and so I choose to do something else. The awareness campaign occupies most of my time when I am not directly involved with rhino and I ask myself the question every single day, “what is it that I can do to make a positive difference today”.
Every one of us has a network of people and a set of skills we can consider involving in this struggle. I have had the honour of working intermittently with Braam Malherbe on the ground from day 3 of this ordeal. Braam symbolises the concept of DOT “do one thing” which he encourages at every opportunity and it is a powerful way of getting things done. We cannot be intimidated by the Goliaths that threaten us or our fears will be paralyzing. Braam, more than anyone I have met has undertaken huge physical and mental challenges for conservation causes and by example he demonstrates what man is capable when we get out of our comfort zones and decide we can. He has run the Great wall of China and recently returned from a successful expedition to the South Pole representing our magnificent country. The lesson for me is that everything he achieves can only be done through one step followed by another. Meter by meter, there is no other way so today I chose to take another step for the Rhino.
Today, I do something simple, I sort out my photos. Not earth shattering but it is one step closer to the presentation I might deliver in a week or months time. As I do so, they scream out a message of blood, pain, horror and brutality which brings the tears flooding back. They won’t save one life today, but if I listen to what this experience is telling me, and I manage the simple things that I have at my disposal, they may end up being the most powerful tools I will every have in MY fight to save the rhino"
17th March 2012
Some encouraging steps from Themba, but there is still a long way to go.
Thandi continues to do well and covers a lot of ground. She has moved through the same area that Themba is in and one wonders what sort of communication they have shared.
Yesterday I spoke of the choices we have to make regarding this crisis. Today is the day we need to choose to do something about it. Considering the choices that Dr Ian Player and many others chose to make over 50 years ago now, when Operation Rhino was put into action, we learn that the actions of a few produced amazing results; one of the best success stories in conservation history. It is such a sadness that the same man now has to endure the same war twice. But the rules of engagement are very different this time around. This war needs to be fought on many fronts and this war will not be won through the actions of a few. This war requires the participation of millions with a diversity of skills doing something every single day until the slaughter stops.
If you are not already active in the fight to save the Rhino, you can start today by telling someone the story of Themba and Thandi. Tell them of the horror of poaching and what you can't put into words, show them with the images.
Support Kariega in their efforts to keep these icons of the rhino struggle alive and we will play our part on the ground.
In 2 days time the Associated Press will distribute these shameful images to their network of 300 channels worldwide. One of the executive directors has described their footage as "the most graphic she has ever seen on this subject" so it will shock the world.
But action is what we need more than sympathy and a story of survival is the hope that might just motivate the rest of the world to action.
A few days after the 85th birthday of Dr Player, we honour the efforts of his inspiring life by doing something, today and every single day until the poaching stops."
16th March 2012
More good news on Thandi in today's report.
"Thandi had joined up with the other rhino again by late yesterday so doesn't appear to have been outwardly affected by her procedure.
The monitoring team report that Themba has moved away from his hollow and has been grazing well on the edge of the thicket line. He passed dung and has had water during the past 24 hours. These parameters were what we were worried about in the two days leading up to yesterdays procedures so are positive signs. The pain killers we gave him yesterday will be wearing off now and we don't want to give him more unless we absolutely have to. All the indications based on his condition under anaesthetic were that his system is very run down, his blood pressure was low and I am very worried about the capacity of his vital organs to handle the battering they are taking. The next 24 hours should give us an indication if he is able to sustain himself without anti-inflammatory/pain killers.
If his eating and activity reduce we will have to go back onto them at the risk of damage, especially his kidneys.
We continue to source as much input from other vets regarding the best way forward for them. I have consulted daily with different vets who have had experience of rhino wounds which is highly valued from a professional point of view. The other noticeable aspect of the process so far is how much it is affecting people from all over the world with skills and experience not usually utilised by vets in the field. This has been a very humbling experience as it brings home the importance of these beautiful animals and the way they have crept into peoples hearts.
As Thandi appears to have turned the corner, we are starting to build on a
treatment plan to try and re-construct her face as much as possible. At this stage it seems impossible to establish a full skin cover over her facial
wounds but I can promise we will do everything we can to give her the best possible chance of doing so. As mentioned before much of this is new territory in the treatment of rhino and we will consider every avenue we can
We have already had Dr Glynn Catton arrange for an artificial skin product to be sent down to us in the hope that it can make a difference
during the healing process.
This coming week a human re-constructive surgeon, Dr Alistair Lamont has offered to fly up from Cape Town to consider their condition and start applying his mind to what could possibly be done during the months ahead. Given the extensive experience that surgeons have in re-habilitating human injuries, I expect to be able to learn much from shared knowledge for Themba and Thandi and for the benefit of future victims of these poaching atrocities.
The contrast between what man is capable of in terms of both pain and wellfare is staggering. It is a sobering reminder of the power we possess in the choices we make. We have been given custodianship over all species on this planet. Our legacy lies entrenched in whether we choose to turn a blind eye to this level of suffering or whether we choose to do something about it. You, like me, have choices to make."
15th March 2012
The first line of today's update from Dr Fowldes is a joy to read.
Both Themba and Thandi continue to fight for their lives at Kariega. Thandi is simply inspirational ! The way she is moving around the reserve indicates her position in the recovery process is improving every day. We found her running with a female and calf which we dehorned the other day so she is socially intergrating again which is a very positive sign. Her face is also showing some good signs of progress. The maggot infestation is much improved and the level of infection has reduced around her facial injuries. Under anaesthetic she was stable and we were able to do some aggressive cleaning down to the exposed bone.
Themba is such a brave fighter.
We tend to forget that in our terms he is only a boy, not even a teenager at four rhino years old. His courage against enormous odds continues to amaze us. We found him in the little hollow next to the beautiful water hole that he has been at for the past 3 days now. A more tranquil and beautiful place you could never wish to find. He had grass hanging from his mouth and a fair amount of fighting spirit in him when we approached. I took this as a sign that his anaesthetic chances of survival were worth the risk and so we darted him and treated him with a barrage of medication as well as doing a hurried clean out of his wounds. His face is not getting any worse but where he had pushed mud into the nasal sinuses a large amount of decaying matter had become trapped in the cavities behind there. On the good side, his maggot infestation is much better around the face but the signs of an obvious healing response are not the same as with Thandi.
Yet again we sit with, quite literally, a life and death struggle based on his bad leg. His leg is looking a lot worse from the outside in that more areas of skin are revealing their necrotic state and there are two more drainage holes on the outside of his foot indicating a deterioration in the skin. It is still impossible to know the full extend on the internal leg injuries and the state of progress within.
There is still hope for this brave boy but he has not turned the corner and is still deteriorating where it matters most. On his recovery from this morning’s procedures he did give us a ten meter charge which was energising. We left him, surrounded by lush green grass, plenty of shade, clean water and a host of familiar birds and their peaceful calls to keep him company. The plumbago bushes stand over a meter tall framing his surroundings with the softest blue colours.
How have we allowed the lusts of men, on the other side of the planet, to invade the tranquillity of this heavenly place?
Themba and Thandi, surrounded by all we value in nature, live on as icons of animal suffering and the determination to survive. They stand guard at the door, one strong and one weak, that will lead to the demise of thousands more species because of our apathy. They are adopted, as champions of a cause which goes far beyond “Saving the Rhino” because if we don’t save the Rhino, who move us to this extent, what hope do we have of saving the rest."
14th March 2012
Today's update from Dr Fowldes. Tomorrow is another big day for Themba and Thandi
"Once again we find ourselves on the eve of planned vet procedures on Themba and Thandi.
The build up to these operations is very stressful. Most wildlife procedures require much more planning and thought than actual time we spend carrying them out, but in this case the effort and logistics are double so I have spent most of the afternoon in planning for another big day. Apart from the practicalities of a helicopter, work teams, drugs, vehicles, ropes, water and weather implications, the most important thing is patient preparation.
In this case we can’t do pre-anaesthetic checks and blood tests to see if their kidneys, liver, blood cells, proteins and mineral levels are indicating that they will survive another anaesthetic. All we really have to go on are the observations of the monitoring team on the ground.
In this department Jason has been giving me feedback today but Themba has been lying up for most of the day in a plumbago patch in the same hollow he was in yesterday. Because of his bullish behaviour yesterday I have advised caution and we haven’t been able to assess him at close range as well as I would have liked.
Jason reports that he has spent part of the past 24 hours in the mud wallow and he has been drinking but signs of him eating are not convincing and this combined with his lack of mobility today, is of great concern to us. We will do a final assessment tomorrow morning weighing up the risks vs benefits of a procedure. Thandi has been seen and is mobile as usual so she appears to be stable.
Not a day goes by without the thought of losing one of them crossing my mind. The emotions of the past 13 days lie very close to the surface so even the thought of this happening brings tears to my eyes. We would be absolutely devastated if we lost either one of them at this stage.
Your prayers give us strength of this I am certain because we feel driven beyond what I know we are capable of. I have to trust that those same prayers and positive thoughts apply even more so to them."
13th March 2012
A very interesting insight into the facial injuries sustained by Themba during the poaching incident.
Quotes below from Dr William Fowldes
"In an effort to try show you the extent of the damage to his skull Larry Witmer from WitmerLab at Ohio University has produced an amazing graphic for us with the help of his assistant Ryan Ridgely. (Please see graphic below).
13th March 2012
It was wonderful!
We had planned to treat him today so he would have a 2 day break before his next surgery session. However, after finding him in a well grassed hollow next to a water hole that he has been drinking from we decided to let him be just as he is. He passed a good amount of dung which confirms he is eating something but I am still not convinced its enough. He has plastered his face full of mud so that the holes into his head are completely blocked by mud today.
Thandi continues to be very mobile and isn't showing herself much but all indications remain positive for her apart from her face which we know will be a long, drawn out recovery.
We will do all we can to try and prevent complications for them and we so appreciate the growing army of caring rhino campaigners out there who have shown support for these two magnificent ambassadors of the living dinosaurs. We cannot be the generation that is responsible for their extinction. It is simply NOT and option."
13th March 2012
This is the first footage of the scenes that the rangers and vet team faced when they found Themba and Thandi.
The vet you see working on the rhinos and the naration is Dr William Fowldes
Warning: this video clip contains graphic images
12th March 2012
Today's update from the field
"Themba continues to be a worry as we are not aware of him drinking at all
since his anaesthetic which is now 2 days ago. There was rain on the first
night which may have given him some puddles of water to drink from. He is
only a few hundred meters from water this afternoon and he knows his
surrounding's well, which should mean that he would have taken in some fluids by now. There are signs of him feeding as he has made his way through the edge of the thicket line today but not enough yet to be happy with his progress. He has not passed faeces yet today which confirms his reduced intake and although assessing condition in these thick skinned animals is difficult we can see noticeable weight loss now.
I decided not to treat with anti-imflammatories today as I am concerned
that, should he be dehydrated, we may damage his kidneys further. Themba has moved 200 to 300 meters over the past 24 hours so he is still mobile and alert but he is only taking about 10% weight on his bad leg.
Thandi has been moving around a lot and was up a steep forested valley when I tried to get a look at her this afternoon. She has moved around a lot in the past 24 hours so seems to be holding her own for now. The Kariega staff have been seeing her out in the open quite a lot.
Today we officially released the horrendous images that were taken on day 1.
Just working through these images and reliving the horror of that first
morning has not been easy but I must give all the credit to Paul Mills who
filmed these scenes and has edited them together for us without asking for anything in return.
As I was racing to Kariega on Day 1, I phoned Paul to ask for his help as their condition could not afford any delays. Paul dropped everything and met me on the road so that he could capture everything that happened from the minute I got there.
Not only is this footage important for awareness but it is also
invaluable for me to be able to study now and compare the various symptoms that we are working with at this stage, with those from the early days of the process. For me, this war requires as many people on this planet to appreciate the shear horror of poaching and the images which we have recorded at every stage, I pray will prompt the sort of response from you all that converts into ACTION.
The first action which I urge you to do, is to share these links and images with your entire network and those in authority in your communities. This is the first and most important step. We will do our best, along with many others who have already done so much, to suggest other ways you can make the suffering of Themba and Thandi make a difference in this war. The future of their species is at stake, the lives and sufferings of their kin hang in the balance."
12th March 2012
The following video clip has been made and released by the Kariega team to spread the word of the horrific pain and suffering caused by rhino poachers
11th March 2012
Here is Dr Fowldes report on today's procedures:
Themba has only been in the open during the night thus far and is obviously in a different psychological space to Thandi.
Today we have the invaluable assistence of tracking bracelets on both rhino after the Chipembere Foundation sourced and donated them to this cause. These devices are a vital part of a treatment strategy in the wild as they allow the Kariega monitoring team to keep check of their progress at any time of the day. The technology also indicates if the device is stationery or moving. Without this improved monitoring capacity we will not be able to respond quickly to changes in their circumstances.
Report from Daniel and Lance is that Themba is more alert than in previous days. He is still in the thickets but is definately grazing. We cannot confirm water intake today yet. Thandi is on the edge of the stream and has been seen through the night grazing well.
It appears that they have come through the procedures yesterday as well as we can expect which is good news.
We have started processing the video material of the first nine days and believe me, I constantly question my own decisions as these images remind me of all they have come through. Many people will ask why these gentle giants should be allowed go through this painful healing process at all.
Only time will tell if I have made the right decision or not concerning their wellfare and the responsibility of this will be mine to answer for. While we fight with them for the return of their comfortable lives at Kariega, everyone reading this has the opportunity to fight for the life, dignity and respect which this entire species deserves.
I urge you to expose the brutal reality of poaching to the world by sharing the story of Themba and Thandi. What we do for them on the ground will only make a fraction of a difference in the battle to save a species. What YOU do for them by telling the world or their senseless sufferings and their brave fight for survival WILL make a difference"
10th March 2012
Here is Dr Fowldes report on today's procedures:"It has been a dramatic day at Kariega.
Having set out with the possibility of loosing Themba, we ended emotionally drained but relieved that they are both still alive. We all find it so difficult to get used to the gruesome extent of their injuries and the senslesness behind them, that every procedure is an emotionally jarring one for the whole team. But how can we possibly conceive what Themba and Thandi are going through.
Today we got a better understanding of the extent of Themba's leg injuries as nine days after the poaching, the tissues that were starved of blood are now apparent. This tells a story of nine days of hell. Every breath and every step adding to the constant level of pain. The resilience and bravery of these conservation icons is such a humbling thing to witness.
Themba has a semi circle of dead skin behind his knee where it folds when flexed. We estimate he lay on that leg for between 3 and 10 hours after his face was hacked to pieces. The underlying muscles have also been badly affected by the same process but the good news is that these areas still have a good blood supply and they have already forced their own draining sinuses out through the dead skin. We have enlarged these holes to encourage drainage and the antibiotics and pain releaving drugs will provide support from the inside.
Both their faces are plagued by maggots which have found their way into every possible recess in spite of treatment on day four. This is now of major concern and will need more frequent attention at the risk of negative side effects.
Today's procedures took place with the aid of a large team of dedicated people.
My partner, Dr Peter Brothers, helped spread the veterinary responsibilities and nine separate teams all with focused tasks to fulfil during different stages of the procedures.
I feel very privileged to have worked with such passionate people.
9th March 2012
This mornings latest from Dr Fowldes:
"During the night Themba moved about 350 Meters and was found lying up in a good area. There are obvious signs of him having grazed during the night and we are not going to disturb him today for treatment. Full assesment will be done tomorrow under anaesthetic.
Part of the treatment progression during this 1st week has been to cross-reference as much as possible to ensure we are doing all we can for them. I have had daily conversations with other vets around the country who have had to treat survivors of poaching. Success has been very mixed and there is no one protocol out there to follow as every situation is so different. Sadly if we consider the escalation in poaching with 8 more animals added to the death toll yesterday alone bringing the 2012 total to 108, I anticipate we will have to deal with more and more of these traumatised animals. We would all like to believe that the illegal availability of the opioid drugs the poachers use has dried up, which sadly, may result in poachers using as little as possible to achieve their barbaric goals. If this becomes a trend, more of these animals will survive the mutilation and hence it is so vitally important that we learn from every experience and improve our levels of care and treatment where we can!
Cindy Harper, a DNA specialist working on the rhino crisis, said in a recent NBC program titled THE RHINOS LAST STAND "These are not things. They are living beings that we can connect to. We care about them, each and every one of them" This sentiment is echoed by myself and the entire KARIEGA team."
As Dr Fowldes tell us in his evening report, tomorrow is a big day:
"Thandi, the female, has not been seen today but her general whereabouts is known and she has been mobile so we have left her alone for today.
Themba, the male, has spent most of the day lying up in the same location which as behavior pattern differs from the previous days. I fear this is an indication of increased discomfort. He has stood up several times and changed his position which is only mildly reassuring. Although the news of him eating and drinking overnight is good, his overall intake does not sound like it is sufficient to sustain him and this would need to improve over the next few days.
Tomorrow we plan to work on both the rhino. The female will have to be darted from the helicopter which can be stressful in itself. Fortunately we are in the hands of Grant Soule who is not only a n amazing chopper pilot, but his understanding and finesse when it comes to sheparding rhino while the anaesthectic takes effect, is a gift which I have marvelled at for many years. This is such a critical aspect of the procedure as excessive stress on an animal which is already compromised could be disasterous.
The fear of what we might find tomorrow when we assess Themba's leg is constantly at the back of our minds. We have put an enourmous amount of preparation into the procedures tomorrow so that we can be at our best for them. It is quite possible that we may have to consider the unthinkable and I know this would be a devastating loss after so much anguish. But for now we focus on being positive and would ask that you do the same."
8th March 2012
Morning update from Dr Fowldes:
"Themba has been found alive this morning so I am on my way to assess his condition and plan to top up his anti-inflammatories. We will report back later in the day on his status. The Kariega team are doing a great job in keeping watch over them without harassing them. A critical component of our care plan is to try and balance maximum possible treatment with minimum possible stress. Our decision not to move them to a boma for closer observation was made in an effort to keep their understandable stress levels to a minimum. This strategy is very resource intensive as staff have to spend many long hours of the day tracking and monitoring and we need a helicopter to fly to the reserve to assist with every treatment. But we are convinced that given the severe nature of the trauma, and other considerations, a captive treatment strategy would push them over the edge.
The dedication and passion of the team is tangible as they explore ways of doing more to help. The ranger group have initiated their own fund raising initiatives and the local community at Kenton are rallying to assist in their plight. Many of the staff have known these animals from birth and are deeply moved by their struggle. Daniel came to me after the last treatment session with tears in his eyes to thank me for what I am doing for their animals. Having been through a similar experience a year ago with an animal I knew, I feel so much for what they are going through."
Dr Fowldes evening update:
"Themba has moved a substantial distance over the past few days. Lance has confirmed that he is eating and drinking and he is passing normal feaces which are all positives signs. However, on a visual examination of him earlier today his leg is showing signs of possible deterioration and the way he is favouring it has not improved in the past 48 hours. The decision to change his anti-inflammatory to something more potent has now been taken. We run higher risks of damage to kidneys if they are already compromised. Given his ordeal this is quite likely and its the reason why we haven't gone for this option yet. With every treatment we have been giving him a sedative which in humans causes short term memory loss in the hope that he doesn't remember much of these experiences. This is speculation but I am willing to try anything to make his struggle less traumatic. I said yesterday that today was make or break for him. As far as the rest of his body is concerned, he appears to be going in the right direction. However, in two days time we will anaesthetise him and have to surgically examine his leg. If there is still hope, we will apply surgical drainage to his leg to limit the impact that the internal decaying tissue has on his body. If this process has already progressed beyond a certain point, we will have to take the unbearable decision of euthanasing him.
Your support and prayers for both rhino and this amazing Kariega team are so appreciated. You have no idea how lifting they are under such demanding circumstances.
Thandi has not shown herself today but we know her location and are less concerned about her today. "
6th March 2012
Kariega Game Reserva have released the following statement:
"Our rangers have come up with two beautiful Xhosa names for the surviving Kariega rhinos - our strong and willful female has been named Thandiswa (Thandi) meaning tenacity and courage; and for our young male, Themba, the Xhosa word meaning hope."
The latest update from Dr Fowldes:
"The weather has been mild today which is good for both rhino. The female has not revealed herself and the monitoring team lead by Lance and Jason have not bothered her today.
The bull is still moving around in the fringes of the thicket and has not been seen grazing which is of concern. The leg swelling is slightly improved and he is still placing his leg well but we can't confirm any definite weight bearing on the damaged leg. The distance and topography of the ground he has covered has surprised us moving up quite steep slopes along the way. He is alert and although he let's us get quite close, he is also prepared to mock charge when he feels threatened. We have repeated the anti-inflammatory today to keep him as comfortable as possible (using drop-out darts) and the team will watch him tonight from a distance in the hope that we can confirm if he is eating or not. He has moved too far away from the original wallow and won't take water from the baths that have been put out. There is a water hole a few hundred meters away and he is familiar with his surroundings so pray he takes water soon. His face is clean with some serous oozing. His right eye is still clouded over which is limiting vision on that side.
While Mike and I crouched 7 meters from him in a small opening in the valley thicket for more than 10 minutes I couldn't help feeling that this animal understands something about what we are trying to do for him. How can we possibly comprehend how confused he must be. Its times like these that remind me how little we understand about them. There is a side to rhino that's as soft as the mewing call they make. I used to think that it didn't match the animal but as time passes I am starting to think that its more than likely spot-on."
5th March 2012
Kariega have today released the first pictures of the rhinos that fell victim to the poachers earlier this month.
The pictures are truly shocking but we believe that sharing them with you and asking to spread the word of what happens when rhinos are poached is one step on the road to stopping these hiddeous crimes!
In answer to questions on whether the horns would grow back, Dr Fowldes has stated the following:
"at this stage it is to early to say, but he will be able to give an opinion once we have had the chance to evaluate them more closely in the coming days."
4th March 2012
Herewith latest update from Dr Fowlds!
"The Kariega Male survivor appears to be in a lot of pain this afternoon. He has moved off to a position where the terrain makes safe top up treatment very risky. We are hoping he will keep moving away from this area this evening so we can administer more drugs. His leg swelling appears to be deteriorating which is not good news."
The Female has not been seen since this early morning but we plan on doing a scheduled procedure in the morning to evaluate and treat her."
LATEST UPDATE 6PM-FEMALE
Dr Fowlds reports
" We have found the female walking well! She has been eating and we watched her drink well at the waterhole. Very good news as far as her body is concerned: she has 2 holes 5cm across in her face and a visible piece of flesh hanging from this area with signs of fly activity setting in"