The purpose of the procedure was to evaluate if the skin grafts had worked, and which methods in particular had been successful. Although Thandi’s behaviour and general health appear strong, the procedure revealed that the skin grafts were mostly unsuccessful.
Veterinary Doctor, William Fowlds, commented “The surgical team assessed her face after a good clean up we were very disappointed to find that she has removed most of the grafted tissues that were transplanted on the previous two occasions. Only 2 small islands of tissue remain over her front horn area and the exposed bed of granulation tissue is not as blood rich as we would have hoped. The back horn area is doing well but probably isn't subjected to as much pressure as what is clearly happening in the front.”
Thandi has undergone many surgeries and treatments since her horn was hacked off by poachers in March last year. Yesterday morning, 19 months after she was poached, the Kariega team, Dr Fowlds, and surgical Doctors Johan Marais and Alistair Lamont gathered at Kariega in the hope that this would be her last procedure after a very long recovery period.
Reports leading up to the procedure indicated that the skin had been traumatised by the rigours of rhino life. It is not clear whether this is due to interaction with a bull, or whether it is simply a result of rubbing and rolling in the mud.
“Nature carries far more force than possible human intervention – no matter what we are trying to do for her. It should be remembered that she is in her position due to poaching and that the procedures we have tried were the first of their kind.” says Kariega co-owner Graeme Rushmere.
After cleaning her face and administering vitamins and supportive treatments we woke her up “She stood up, walked in our direction, gave a few snorts and calmly turned and walked slowly over the rise and out of site in the direction of her companions” says Fowlds.
As to future treatment, the difficult decision was made to take a step back and allow Thandi to show the way forward without interference for the next while. “Nature may provide a solution and it also may well be that she may has to live with disability and ongoing consequences” commented Rushmere.
On her general health and behaviour, Thandi’s keeper, Jason Loest comments: “Due to the extent of the wound she still has a long way to go but we are seeing progress. She is still relaxed and looks comfortable in her surroundings and daily routines so as far as we can see from a distance she is doing well.”
Blood samples from today’s procedures will be analysed by Idexx in Cape Town in order to ensure that her vital organs are not suffering in any way from the amount of procedures she has had. We also hold our breath for news of whether she is pregnant.
Please read more comments from Doctor Fowlds here
Thandi and the team of Doctors after the scab and dirt were removed from her wound.
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