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Rhino Thandi & Themba DAY 22 - 19h00

Jone Haesslich
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The weather on the way to Kariega today couldn’t have been more reflective of the atmosphere concerning the rhino in that place. Sharp rays of bright sunshine pushing through the gloomy dark clouds that came rolling in off the sea nearby.

News of Thandi is consistently promising as she spends much of her time with the mother and calf she knows well. Photographic evidence of her facial status has been difficult to come by but her behaviour gives no indication of the need for additional concern. There is no doubt that all these animals whether poached or not, have been traumatised by the ordeal as they are not their relaxed selves and keep to the thickets fringes for most of the day.

Jason has been reporting on Themba’s progress over the past 2 days when I was not able to be there in person. There has been a very gradual but noticeable decline in his condition since his last procedure. His levels of alertness are not what they were 4 days ago and he has lost more weight. His leg from the outside appears to be the same but we know that the problems lie within and these are very difficult to gauge. His use of the injured leg remains the same and if his proximity to the water hole is anything to go by, he is more uncomfortable than before as he hasn’t moved more than 100 meters from the water. For the first time his dung was a bit loose today and this is a worrying sign.

I was relying on getting blood results today. These were going to be quite crucial in my understanding of his condition leading into the previous procedure, and possibly why he appears to have lost momentum since then. Delays in the courier service have cost us another day and they may well be quite academic by the time we get them. Very frustrating. So my concern for Themba is now definitely high. Jason reports that he has eaten better since I left his side in the early afternoon but I know his body cannot take too many more of these low days. He still gave me a few mock charges when approached but his response distance is now much closer than before and he only takes a few shorts steps. I don’t think it is simply because he is getting used to us being there either.

I have wrestled with decisions about Themba for 22 days and every day, including today, he has been true to his name by giving us enough hope to keep going with the treatment process. He has had his good days and bad days along the way and I know the longer he fights to survive under these conditions the more run down his system becomes. I constantly check my emotional bond with him and need to be sure that my professional mind is not clouded by the emotions that threaten to overwhelm me as I write these reports every evening. One thing I know is that when I am working with him, my actions are brutally cold and clinical and it is only when I am driving away from that beautiful, tortured place that I am overcome with such respect, admiration and compassion for these shamed and helpless creatures.

Every day I hear of the compassion of so many people for their struggle to survive and it makes no logical sense to me that this tragedy continues to slam down on our rhino when so many people care.

Today I gave a talk at a junior school and used the scene from Jurassic Park 1, that first game drive, to illustrate what young children could be missing out on one day. The look on children’s faces in awe of what once was, confirms that what we have left is priceless. There can be no value placed on these and so many other species. As much as we value our lives, we will be poor without them.

Today has been a tough day for Themba and unless the sun shines on his circumstances tomorrow, I may be faced with the toughest decisions yet.. We still have some high risk options we can use on him, but Themba’s life, like the lives of all rhino hangs in the balance of man’s will.

Will Fowlds