If rhinos can’t even be free from poachers in a wildlife refuge, where can they be safe?
That’s the question now plaguing officials after it appears someone shot a 5-year-old female southern white rhinoceros while at a private preserve in South Africa. The rhino, named Wallis, has been since been moved to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center, where veterinarians have now noticed a wound on her left side that won’t heal, officials said Thursday.
At first, vets performed minor surgery, but when the wound didn’t seem to get better, they took a second look and found a more extensive injury. They brought in a metal detector this week and zeroed in on a “brass or lead object.”
But because Wallis is so big, radiography doesn’t seem possible. Now, the city’s Fire-Rescue Department has offered the use of specialized imaging equipment generally used by their bomb squad.
“While it can’t be confirmed, it appears Wallis may have been the target of a failed poaching attempt while in South Africa,”the facility said as vets try to figure out the best course of treatment.
The illegal wildlife trade, of course, has hit rhino populations hard, pushing the species to the edge of extinction. An estimated three rhinos are killed each day by poachers looking to traffic their horns.
Wallis is one of six female rhinos that were moved to the Safari Park from private reserves in South Africa, as part of an effort to help save the critically endangered northern white rhino.
There are only three individual northern white rhinos left on the planet. All of them are under the watchful eye of a conservancy in Kenya.
Photos San Diego Zoo Safari Park