Lonely Planet Writer

Rhino injured by poachers gets skin graft from elephant

A rhinoceros mutilated by poachers for its horn in South Africa has received a groundbreaking skin graft from an elephant.

A mutilated rhinoceros has received a graft of elephant skin to help her recover from her wounds inflicted by poachers
A mutilated rhinoceros has received a graft of elephant skin to help her recover from her wounds inflicted by poachers Image by Meredith G / CC BY 2.0

Two weeks ago, the female rhino was viciously attacked by poachers who killed her baby before hacking off one of her horns.

The South African Times reports that the NGO ‘Saving The Survivors’ paid for the 90 minute operation.

Demand for rhino horns has exploded recently because of their use in Asican and Chinese medicine
Demand for rhino horns has exploded recently because of their use in Asian and Chinese medicine Image by Valentina Storti / CC BY 2.0

The vet who carried out the procedure in Pretoria, Johan Marais, said it was the first time that his team had used elephant skin to heal a wound on a rhino. He pointed out that the operation aimed to cover the gaping wound left where the horn was cut off and did not try to reconstruct the area.

Dr Marais stressed that the elephant skin used had come from an animal which died of natural causes and was sourced from a taxidermist.

If this operation proves successful, the technique could be repeated as the treatment requires only a small amount of skin.

Animal protection experts say that there has been a huge demand in recent years for rhino horns as they are used in traditional Asian medicine.

In many parts of the continent and in particular in China, a kilo of horn can fetch as much as €55,000.