A mutilated rhino has just been given a second chance. The 12-year-old rhino was severely injured when poachers shot and removed its horns two weeks ago. The rhino, who resides in the KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa, is now recovering after being treated with a skin graft from an elephant.
According to the Agence France-Presse (AFP), the operation was funded by the NGO Saving the Survivors and took an hour and a half. The procedure didn’t reconstruct the horn, but covered the wound that resulted from the attack.
“This is the first time we are using elephant skin to heal a wound on a rhinoceros,” veterinarian Johan Marais, who performed the operation, told AFP.
The donated skin came from an elephant that died of natural causes. It’ll take two to three weeks to see whether the skin graft on the rhinoceros, who was treated last week, was successful.
“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,” Marais told CNN news.
Marais told the Associated Press that he needed material that was “strong, lightweight but pliable.” He debated whether to use the leather of a kudu antelope, but soon realized it was not strong enough. Marais also considered using hippo hide, but it was too thick. He eventually settled on using elephant leather and hopes to expand the technique if the treatment is successful.
The poachers are thought to have fled before removing the second horn, possibly because the rhino tried to get up to its feet. Veterinarians confirmed that its 5-year-old calf died during the attack.