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South Africa Saving the Survivors Rhino Poaching 

Photographer: Kim Ludbrook

 

South Africa has the world's largest population of Rhinos in the world. However over the past nine years a staggering 6,115 rhinos have been killed by poachers seeking their horns for sale to the lucrative traditional healing market in the Far East. The poaching of rhinos showed an incredible 9000 percent increase between 2009 and 2016 with a staggering 1,054 rhinos killed in 2016 alone. The effects of rhino poaching will be visible for years to come.

Most of the rhinos have been poached in the Kruger National Park while others are killed on private land and other smaller conservation areas by hugely sophisticated poaching syndicates, who are always one step ahead of the efforts of conservation and law officials.

Only a small number of poached rhinos survive the horrifying experience of having their horns hacked off by either a saw or an axe. To help these seriously injured rhinos, a NGO 'Saving the Survivors' (STS) was founded in 2012 by wildlife vet Dr Johan Marais. Although Dr Marais and fellow STS vet Dr Zoe Glyphis, attend to injured endangered wildlife in general, most of their efforts have been directed at rhinos due to the vicious attacks that many of the rhinos have fallen victim to.

In a ground-breaking and world-leading initiative, Dr Marias and Dr Glyphis race to injured and poached Rhinos once they have been called by conservation groups or private rhino owners in an attempt to save the animals and heal their often horrifying open wounds. With names like Amy, Vrystaad, Seha, Hope, Kwatile and Wasinda, the poached rhinos that are treated by STS are the lucky few who survive being either shot or darted by the high level poaching syndicates using state of the art equipment.

This photo essay follows the exploits of Dr Marias and Dr Glyphis as they treat two wounded rhinos - Seha and Wasinda - and help them on the long road to recovery.

In treating the wounded rhinos, Dr Marias and Dr Glyphis attempt to save the rhinos by cleaning and covering the huge, open wounds left after their horns have been hacked off. This involves darting the rhinos with tranquillizers so they are able to tend to the wound while the two-tonnes animals are immobile. Also tended to are the gunshot wounds the rhinos have as well as other poaching related wounds.

Treating the rhinos often involves flying to private airstrips by chartered planes or driving to the stricken animals. While the rhinos are treated near where they have been poached some rhinos are moved to safer areas closer to Johannesburg and Pretoria where Dr Marias and Dr Glyphis are based, so further treatment can be maintained over the long period of time it takes to properly heal the facial wounds left by the poachers.

For those Rhinos that are poached and survive there is at least a painful, but hopefully successful road to recovery with the help of Dr Marias and Dr Glyphis and their efforts at Saving the Survivors.