Thandi, rhino poaching survivor, is pregnant

17 December 2013

The rhino that survived an attack by poachers in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province last year is pregnant, according to Alan Weyer, the general manager of Kariega Game Reserve.

“Although this may be a small step toward winning the fight against poaching, we remember Madiba’s words, ‘It always seems impossible until it’s done’,” Weyer said in a statement last week, quoting Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s former president, who died on 5 December.

Thandi, as the rhino is named, survived an attack at the reserve just outside Port Elizabeth in March last year. Poachers tranquillised three rhino with darts, and hacked off their horns, leaving them to bleed to death. The two other rhinos – both bulls – died from their wounds.

Wildlife vet Dr Will Fowlds, who has been treating Thandi since the attack, said blood tests had confirmed that the rhino was at the end of the first trimester of her pregnancy. “I don’t recall such a small value carrying such huge significance for anything in my professional life,” Fowlds said.

Trusting

Fowlds has devotedly attended to Thandi – which means “love” in isiXhosa – since her attack. She has been through countless surgeries and procedures to keep the wound from infection and to find ways “to protect her vulnerable face from the rigours of normal rhino life”, the reserve said. This has included a pioneering skin graft earlier this year.

“There have been ups and downs including two occasions when her wound has reopened but despite that, her behaviour has returned to normal and she has become more trusting and less nervous with each passing day.”

Staff at the reserve say Thandi has shown “an incredible fighting spirit and will to survive”.

Fowlds has taken Thandi’s story around the world – including to Vietnam and China – to raise awareness about the fight against poaching.

Courage

“Thandi is arguably the single most important rhino alive as I am not aware of any individual animal that has carried the plight of the rhino out to the world to the extent that she has and continues to do,” Fowlds said.

“Her story has touched the lives of so many people across the globe and her courage is reflected in our love for her and the species that she represents. The prospects of a successful pregnancy and birth represent the hope of survival. In a crisis which threatens us with despair, that hope, as insignificant as it may seem for some, is what we cling to for dear life.”

The gestation period of white rhino’s is between 15 and 16 months. If Thandi is somewhere in her first trimester she will probably have the calf in around a year’s time, the reserve says on its blog. “Thandi is over 10 years old. If all goes well this will be her third calf.”

The reserve says Thandi spends most of her time in the company of one of the other rhino cows on the reserve. Her female companion gave birth in March this year – a year after the poaching incident. The calf was fathered by one of the two bulls lost in the poaching incident.

The horns of the reserve’s remaining rhinos were surgically removed after the attack to prevent another tragedy.

Source: Kariega Game Reserve