The rhino was attacked and disfigured by poachers.
Some hope came just recently for a rhino who had her face mutilated by South African poachers - in the form of elephant kin. According to CNN, poachers recently shot the 12-year-old rhino, called Hope, at a wildlife park in KwaZulu-Natal province.
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According to Dr. Johan Marais, a wildlife surgeon who teaches and works at the University of Pretoria, she was shot down and the poachers hoped to take her horns, but were only able to get away with one. Her calf was killed in the attack.
"The front horn was hacked off, and they started with the back horn as well, but then either got disturbed or the rhino got up," he said.
Marais, who is part of Saving the Survivors, is providing Hope with care just like he has done for many other animals that he saved.
They opted to use the elephant skin because the poachers had, in their violence, removed most of the underlying bones that held the horn. All that was left was some soft tissue, according to Marais. When something this destructive happens to an animal, it is better to use natural materials that have less of a chance of being rejected by the body. Synthetic materials sometimes cause immune system reactions.
"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," he said. The elephant skin was obtained after an elephant died of natural causes.
This isn't the first time they have worked on a rhino. Clients will pay top dollar for rhino horns because it is believed in Southeast Asia that they can be used to cure cancer. Last year alone, 1,215 rhinos were killed, leading to a species-wide fear that they will soon become extinct.
Still, it is a struggle to save all of the animals due to surgical problems and recovery: "Because they are wild animals ... and there is no post-operative care like you would have in normal medicine, these treatments are therefore quite challenging," Marais said.