And then I meet Thandi.

Thandi is a seven-year-old white rhino, one of three that were shot with tranquilizer darts before their horns were brutally hacked off. One died immediately, the other succumbed to its wounds and drowned in a watering hole two weeks after the incident, and Thandi miraculously pulled through after a series of operations and treatments by Dr. Fowlds.

When I first see her, she is out with two other female rhinos in a beautiful open plain scattered with gazelles, wildebeest, giraffes and other wildlife — a tranquil, natural scene.

Wildlife at Kariega Game Reserve

Photo by Kristian Schmidt for WildAid

It is an emotional moment for Dr. Fowlds, seeing his patient behaving normally after months of trauma — her wounds finally healing. Previously, she would hide in the bush in fear, still remembering her torment. Now, there is only the rim of a scar. Of course she looks strange without a horn, but many other rhinos here have had their horns removed to lessen the incentive to poach.

Yao Ming Meets Thandi, at the Kariega Game Reserve

Photo by Kristian Schmidt for WildAid

It seems tragic that we have to take away a rhino’s identifying feature, its horn, to try and stop people from killing them.

Dr. Fowlds shows us where he had found Thandi in a pool of blood, fearing her dead, and talks us through the painstaking rehabilitation. For each treatment, she needed to be tranquilized, a risky procedure that could have easily resulted in her heart stopping.

Dr. Will Fowlds with Peter Knights and Yao Ming

Photo by Kristian Schmidt for WildAid

Thandi’s story has gathered support from all over the world, including Beijing, where Dr. Fowlds recently visited.

Dr. Fowlds corroborates what I had heard in Kenya:  that private rhino owners are being hit by a downturn in tourism due to the poor global economy, while at the same time facing increasing security costs and threats to the safety of their rhinos from poachers.

Next, the WildAid team heads to Kruger National Park, the frontline of the rhino wars.


5 responses

  1. jeanne van der walt

    I would love to br introduced to my most fsvourite Rhino THANDI…..

    September 1, 2012 at 11:56 am

  2. Hi my name is Sol and I am Brazilian. I have a website whose mission is to educate people to protect animals of any kind. I have a love for animals incalculable. I always say that I am a drop in the ocean and need support as you need too. I will follow your blog, alias, loved his trip to Africa. Let’s be friends. I do not write and speak English. I’m using google translator. See you later. My site is

    September 1, 2012 at 4:04 pm

  3. It’s clear rhino’s can’t survive much longer without a lot more protection. We have U.N. Peacekeeper’s shuttling to various ‘hotspots’ to keep factions from attacking each other, and in this duty, find themselves under attack. Why not rotate some of the ‘Peacekeepers and the funds supporting them to where they could be of great service in the protection of these ancient and dying-out rhinos, and be of service where they can truly make a difference and protect the rhino’s from killer poachers?

    September 1, 2012 at 7:42 pm

  4. Fantastic that you are working to conserve these beautiful, God given animals, thank you! Please try to get to meet Mark Boucher the South African cricket icon as he is also supporting the rhino conservation drive. At the current rate of poaching [murdering] these gret animals, they will be extinc in 10 years!!!!!!!

    September 4, 2012 at 2:39 am

  5. I have to give a shout out to Yao Ming and others involved for what he is trying to do to save elephants and rhinos in Africa. Hoping that Yao can have some influence over his own people and the world to stop the trade of ivory.

    September 4, 2012 at 5:11 am

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