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Four rhinos were injured by bullet shots during an unsuccessful poaching attempt in the Elandela Private Game Reserve near Hoedspruit last week. We are happy to announce that they escaped with their horns and lives intact.

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This is primarily due to the great efforts undertaken by the reserve in collaboration with Investec Rhino Lifeline, the Chipembere Rhino Foundation and the Wilderness Foundation’s ‘Forever Wild – Rhino Protection Initiative’.

The three NGOs were approached to help treat and care for the four wounded animals, most of which had fortunately only suffered relatively minor injuries. The request mobilised a team of doctors and conservationists who joined forces to assist in the animals’ urgent medical treatment.

Into the bush

An extensive response plan has since been put into action to give the four rhinos the best chance of a fast recovery.

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Wildlife veterinarian Dr Peter Rogers (centre) briefs the Tec Med team about his initial assessment and treatment, which took place shortly after the incident occurred.

In an effort to find and dart the animals by helicopter, Rogers and his team managed to track down the rhino called ‘Swagman’. Once the colossal pachyderm had been safely darted, Hugo Truter and Rai Landau from Med Tec joined in with their mobile x-ray equipment. This state-of-the-art technology gives wildlife vets a real chance to diagnose underlying problems that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Swagman is surprised by the dart, but remains in the open for the team to assist him safely onto the ground. The shoulder wound where the bullet entered his body is clearly visible.
Swagman is surprised by the dart, but remains in the open for the team to assist him safely onto the ground. The shoulder wound where the bullet entered his body is clearly visible.
Landau and Truter work their portable x-ray magic and fortunately locate the bullet almost immediately.
Landau and Truter work their portable x-ray magic and fortunately locate the bullet almost immediately.

Although he will be in pain for a while, Swagman is a lucky rhino as his injury didn’t require surgery and should heal itself with time. After six months of planning and fundraising, the Elandela Private Game Reserve and its collaborators are now able to send their medical team to meet injured rhinos in their hour of greatest need.

For more information, visit the Elandela Survivor Rhino Trust, Investec Rhino Lifeline, Chipembere Rhino Foundation and the Forever Wild – Rhino Protection Initiative.

Africa Geographic’s science editor Tim Jackson will be on his way to Hoedspruit this weekend to follow up on two of the other rhinos, who suffered spine injuries when they were shot. Stay tuned for an update!

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Natalia Flemming

Running free in the wild may be simply a dream for many in today’s constraining world. In my case, the quest for ‘mamofa’ country (miles and miles of f*** all, as once aptly expressed by an exploration geochemist from the University of Cape Town) has become an integral cornerstone of everyday life which I’ve had the fortune to nurture both above and below water, on snow-covered mountain slopes and desert dunes, along forested fjords and in the dry bushveld. On my journeys I have enjoyed the occasional company of snakes, parrotfish and giant fruit bats and have always shared my adventures with good friends or fellow long- and snowboarders. Born in Cape Town, raised in Germany and Switzerland, and travelling in Namibia and South Africa during lengthy visits to family and childhood friends, I can converse with humans in four languages (English, German, French, Italian) but the language of the wild remains elusive. It is for this reason that I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been accepted as an intern at Africa Geographic in Cape Town. This extramural practical forms part of my studies in International Journalism at the University of Bremen, northern Germany. When I’m not out and about, you can find and visit me on my blog: framedbynataliaflemming.wordpress.com