• Surgeons in South Africa have successfully completed a revolutionary facial reconstruction surgery on Hope, a rhino whose horn was lost at the hands of poachers last year.

    Last Monday, the surgeons using Hope’s facial skin covered the gaping wound, pulling together muscles and skin using elasticized polymer threads. They hope that the sides will eventually grow together to cover the wound.

    The procedure was carried out by members of Saving the Survivors, a group of conservationists who use medical interventions to rescue rhinos who survived the hack by poachers. This was, however, the first time the “ABRA system,” which is commonly used on humans who have undergone abdominal surgery, is believed to have been used on an animal.

    Since 2008, almost 6,000 African rhinos have been killed by poachers, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. South Africa, which has the largest population of rhinos in the world has been affected by poaching activities.

    Rhino horns can ‘heal’ cancer and hangover

    In the Asian countries, the horns from the animal are believed to cure ailments ranging from cancer and hangovers. Due to these myths, rhino horns are highly prized.

    To deal with the constant threat, South Africa has had to devise a range of techniques aimed at saving these animals from extinction. Although some innovative methods have received backing, others have aroused criticism from people in the country and around the region.

    In a bid to keep the rhinos safe, an academy outside Johannesburg trains dogs specifically for use as an anti-poaching tool. The canines are taught to sniff out rhino horns, track poachers and even rappel from helicopters with their trainers.

    Apart from the canines, some farms and animal sanctuaries are moving into the use of technologies like drones to monitor and provide security to the animals.

    Others have since adopted dehorning to make the animal less attractive to the poachers. But this has not deterred the extremists from the animals. Poachers still dig deep to remove even the smallest remaining part or growing horn, putting the rhino in grave danger. Many of them die from the experience, but those that survive are taken care of by organizations like Saving the Survivors.

    Some conservationists believe the best way possibly is by separating the animals from the poachers.

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    Hope after surgery to seal the wound.  Image credit: Saving the Survivors/Facebook

    How is that done?

    Two wildlife organizations are at the forefront of a campaign to airlift 80 white rhinos from Southern Africa to Australia.

    Apart from being an expensive venture, it is not guaranteed the animal will survive. Reports show that last March, Rhinos Without Borders began a project to airlift 100 rhinos from South Africa to Botswana, at a cost of $45,000 per rhino. The Australia project will cost an estimated $60,000 per rhino.

    Since the surgery, people on social media have been sending their positive remarks about the operation thanking the team behind the project and condemning the atrocious act that left Hope and other animals vulnerable.

    Image credit: Saving the Survivors/Facebook