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Rhino Thandi DAY 36

Jone Haesslich
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Understandably, monitoring Thandi since the last procedure has been more difficult as they have retreated into the thickets again and remain elusive. The reports and photos from Jason show the presence of extensive scabbing and some area of dried mud on her face. We can’t confirm the state of maggots as she has not given us the chance to get in close enough but the amount of flies around her head suggest they are laying eggs in these moist wounds.

Thandi was treated with two products which should be helping her now. The first is an injection which treats parasites from the inside of the body and should last 3-4 weeks while the second is an “F10” product which comes in a thick cream/gel form and contains and insecticide. While I have no doubt that the product works well, we do not know how much she was able to absorb into these oozing wounds and how much residual effect the insecticide will have because of this ie how long will it keep killing flies and maggots?

The IDEXX team in Cape Town were able to send us blood test results within 24 hours following the latest procedure which was a great help. With the aid of Prof Fred Reyers we have also been able to do some comparative analysis of her blood tests between the 10th March and the 4th of April samples. The overall interpretation of so many indicators is very complicated and that’s why it has been so important to have an expert helping with these aspects. In very simple terms the levels of active muscle damage have dropped from a reading of 1212 (normal range 60-1074) to 140, which is very good. The one liver damage indicator which was on 49 (normal range 0-31) has come down to 32.

Another indicator of general tissue damage, LDH, has shown a marked improvement from 4484 (200-1176) down to 1563. You may recall that Themba’s reading was 22 500 on the 10th of March. However, what the serum protein electrophoresis results show are that the protein studies warn us that her body is still responding to areas of infection and sepsis. What Themba has shown us is that these areas are not limited to her facial injuries, which we are able to visualise, and for this reason we cannot afford to drop our guard. We must remain vigilant for any signs of change. In spite of her amazing progress, this brave girl is still dealing with a lot and she needs our continuing support.

The final results from Themba’s post mortem have shown that the damage to his muscles also extended to his heart muscle and in the end the complications of this ie heart failure as well as a pneumonia, towards the end, are what became too much for him to cope with. In retrospect, after a microscopic study of his tissues and organs, we now know that his internal injuries were too much for him to deal with. His fight has shown us a determination to live which goes beyond our previous understanding of rhino. This courage is even more admirable now that we know the full extent of his injuries. To my knowledge, what we have learned from Themba is unprecedented and his legacy, if applied to others, will propel the levels of care and accuracy of prognosis into another higher level.

Ultimately though, we all strive to not have to deal with victims of poaching at all. We all fight and dream for the day when there is no man induced suffering of this nature and we are all determined to ensure that the heartache and tragedy of Themba leads to a decrease in suffering for all rhino. As a witness to this horrific ordeal, a man’s heart cannot ever be the same again. The suffering of an animal is etched into my heart in a way that I am not able to process at the moment, and I know that many others feel the same way too both at Kariega and around our traumatised country. However, we have also been witness to the most remarkable human response that I have ever been a part of and so since global awareness is such an important foundation in our war to save the rhino, the story of awareness is equally as important to report on.

To give you an idea of what just one awareness platform, Facebook, has done in the war to win hearts and minds, I offer you these stats from Des Lubbe at Tweeters. In the months preceding the 1st of March poaching, Kariega’s Facebook’s weekly reach showed an average around 2000. In less than 3 weeks this figure had grown to 45 000 and tonight Des reports that this reach, on just Facebook alone, is up to 83 000. When this figure went through the 50 000 mark, the potential reach (ie friends of fans) was over one million (1 055 631) so we could probably extrapolate this current potential to easily more than 1.5 million friends.

Just ten days ago (day 26) I wrote these words when the weekly reach hit 45 000: “The story of three precious rhino who enjoyed life side by side in the green grass of paradise. Three of God’s creation who’s bond with one another allowed poachers to butcher them one after the other. Three magnificent rhino with three very different stories. Who among us, will give up just a fraction of our day to expose their story to the world. Even one more minute to post/forward/share or comment in honour of what they have gone through. These three victims have given us new ammunition to use in fighting this war. Our hearts and minds have been impacted by the reality of their suffering. In a war fought on many fronts, YOU have the ability to make an impact in the battle to win over the hearts and minds of inconsiderate man. You may not be making the bullets but you certainly have the ability to fire the guns.

Thank you for all those who have given up a fraction of your day, or more, to add momentum to this awareness drive which is exposing the true reality of rhino suffering during this crisis. The world is starting to take notice and demand more information and if we are ever going to see the end of poaching, we have to educate as the basis for all other measures.

In addition to this, the story of Themba and Thandi echoes through many other media channels. Yesterday their story reached many in the UK through ITV news and was shown in the USA via NBC. I know it has also been aired in France and a German company will be filming soon. Countless national news papers have covered their story and other individuals are busy hard at work editing their story for an even bigger push.

I would not be able to share all the accounts I have received of what good people are doing as a result of the inspiration that this story has given them. This is truly remarkable. This is truly motivational and it inspires us to push even harder, and to do even more.

I made a promise to a dying rhino once, his name was Geza, that I would not allow his death to be in vain. I also made a promise to a dead rhino, his name was Themba, that I would make every single day, all 24 days of suffering, count. That I would do everything in my ability to turn suffering into a pain-free future for other rhino. I don’t have a hope of keeping to my word unless I am part of an army of people who feel the same way and are willing to do something about it. This we have seen through the social media stats and we have experienced in the spontaneous response to the “Thandi Rhino” injection fund which is just two days old.

Thank you all for your overwhelming response for rhino to this point. The statistics show us that it is not enough as we count more than 160 dead this year. But what we have achieved gives us a hope which is being fuelled by those around us. The tidal wave continues to build. Sadly the war is far from over, but this Easter weekend, we are able to celebrate in more ways than one, that even in death, and the worst suffering that man can inflict, there is the hope of life. And this hope draws us forward to a better place.

Will Fowlds