The face of a rhino was mutilated by poachers in South Africa and a group dedicated to these animals have sculpted the rhino a new face using elephant skin. Poachers are brutal when it comes to rhino horns, as seen with this latest case where they ripped and hacked at a rhino’s face disfiguring the creature for its horn.
According to KDVR.com News on August 15, a rhino named Hope was shot at a wildlife park by poachers who then hacked at the animal’s face to get the highly sought after rhino horn. They only managed to get away with one of the horns as they were either scared away or the rhino got up while they were in the process of trying to remove the other horn. The rhino’s front horn was hacked off and the vet and his staff could see where they tried to get at the back horn.
According to USA Today, Hope, who is a 12-year-old rhino, survived the bullet wound from the poachers shooting her to bring her down so they could take the horn. She lay there unconscious as they cut through her face to remove the horn. She was still alive while these cruel things were done to her. Hope’s calf was shot dead by the poachers.
Dr. Johan Marais, who is a wildlife surgeon and part of the group Saving the Saviors, has dedicated his time to fixing the horrendous injuries left behind on rhinos from poachers. Elephant skin was used to sculpt a new face for Hope because it is so tough and protective. The poachers removed the underlying bone on Hope’s face, with only soft tissue left to work with. Marais said, “This is a horrific injury and she must be in immense pain. They hacked off her front horn really deeply and then they started with the back horn.”
Marais said that in the wild you only have one chance to get it right because there’s no post-op checkups after the rhino is fixed up and let go. You want to make sure that the skin will survive all the rubbing efforts of the Rhino. Marais also said, “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.” The skin came from an elephant that had died of natural causes.
According to USA Today, “In South Africa, poachers killed more than 1,200 rhinos last year. The killings reflect growing demands for rhino horns in parts of Asia where the horns are believed to have medical benefits, symbolize higher social statuses and are used to create expensive jewelry.” Many in Asia believe that the rhino horn can be used to cure cancer, so top dollar is paid for a horn.
Marais, who has seen some very cruel injuries to the rhinos said, “The amount of trauma rhinos experience by the hand of man is terrible. It’s atrocious. There’s no solution as yet on what we can do worldwide to actually curb this. We are in trouble.”