JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – A South African NGO dedicated to helping rhinos that have survived poachers’ brutal attempts to remove their horns have reached the milestone of having cared for the endangered species for five years.
Rhino poaching has become an increasingly worrying matter in South Africa, with horns being smuggled out to the lucrative traditional-healing market in East Asia, a pitiless trade that spurred the Saving the Survivors NGO into action.
While South Africa has the world’s largest population of rhinos, over the past 10 years, a staggering 7,137 rhinos have been killed by poachers, according to the Save the Rhino charity.
The practice showed a 9,000 percent increase between 2007-2014, with 1,054 rhinos killed in 2016 alone, according to the charity.
Most rhinos are poached in Kruger National Park in the east of the country, while others are killed on private land and smaller conservation areas by members of highly organized poaching syndicates.
Only a small number of rhinos survive the horrific experience of having their horns hacked off either by saws or axes.
Wildlife vet Dr. Johan Marais founded Saving the Survivors (STS) in 2012 to provide assistance to the few rhinos who survived horrendous attacks.
Along with other team members, Marais and fellow STS vet Dr. Zoe Glyphis look after endangered animals that have been injured.
However, most of their efforts are concentrated on rhinos, due to the vicious attacks and dreadful injuries that many have fallen victim to.
After being alerted to an incident by conservation groups or private owners, the pair races to the injured rhinos in an attempt to save them and help heal their gaping wounds.
With names including Amy, Vrystaad, Seha, Hope, Kwatile and Wasinda, the poached rhinos treated by STS are the lucky few who have survived being shot or darted by members of poaching syndicates who use state of the art equipment.
In treating the wounded rhinos, the pair clean and cover up the large open wounds left after their horns have been hacked off by poachers.
Marais and Glyphis recently treated wounded rhinos Seha and Wasinda, shooting them with tranquilizers so that the 2-ton animals’ wounds could be tended to.
Treating injured rhinos often involves flying to private airstrips in chartered planes, or driving to the stricken animals.
While some rhinos are treated near where they were poached, others are moved to safer areas closer to Johannesburg and Pretoria, where Marais and Glyphis are based, so they can undergo further treatment over a longer period of time.
For the rhinos that survive, there is hopefully a successful road to recovery with the help of Marais and Glyphis, and their efforts at STS.