The Brutality of Poaching

Photo credit: Rachel Claire

Rachel joined us on our most recent trip to Africa as a photographer and journalist to document the work Tac Trac are doing to protect our wildlife. See below for a link to her instagram.

“One of the most impactful stories I have ever heard of Rhino Poaching is one that sticks in my mind so vividly and still brings me to tears. It’s the story of Thandi (meaning ‘love’ in Xhosa) and Themba (which means trust). I will try to tell it as well as I can. ⠀

Both Thandi and Themba were darted and had their horns hacked of with machetes in the dead of night. When vets were called to the scene the next day – they expected to find both Rhinos dead – but Thandi and Themba had survived the night – and despite both having horrific injuries – showed signs of wanting to fight for their lives.

Themba had fallen at an angle when darted and was struggling to walk. When a Rhino is darted, if it falls awkwardly the circulation is cut off by their enormous body weight. It can cause irreversible infection. ⠀

Although Themba was struggling to walk – his facial injuries were no where near as horrific as Thandi’s – her face completely unrecognisable. ⠀

The choice was made to attempt to save the Rhinos lives and Wildlife Vet William Fowlds, flew in two top veterinary surgeons from Onderstepoort as well as a specialist in human plastic surgery to help with the reconstruction of the Rhinos faces. ⠀

Thandi injuries were severe. First her wounds were cleaned and once the exposed sinuses in her face began to heal naturally, they were able to start the process of reconstruction – a harrowing and traumatic series of procedures that included sawing down bones and scraping away dead and dying cells so healing tissue could be established. ⠀

Sadly, before Themba could begin his reconstruction, he would be found dead in a nearby watering hole. His injured leg had given way and unable to get himself up, he drowned. ⠀

However, Thandi continued to fight hard. Showing absolutely remarkable signs of recovery, a second grafting took place and she began to make a full recovery. ⠀

Just over a year later, the same vets would discover that Thandi was pregnant. 16 months later she would give birth to a healthy female Rhino. The baby was named “Thembi” meaning ‘hope’ in Xhosa”.

You can see the video of this particular incident here ( but be warned it is quite graphic.

You can follow Rachel on instagram here and Global Guardians here