Research and Training

Fostering Excellence in Wildlife Research and Training

Prior to the surge in rhino poaching, there was limited knowledge about the effective rescue, rehabilitation, and rewilding of orphaned rhinos. Care for Wild has played a vital role in filling this knowledge gap by maintaining meticulous and comprehensive records of over 100 rhino orphans' rescue, rehabilitation, and rewilding journeys. These records encompass crucial details such as admission information, ICU monitoring, weights, biometrics, feeding plans, daily behavioural observations, key movement data, medical history, blood profiles, and reintroduction monitoring.

This rigorous record-keeping serves as a valuable resource for research, education, and future reference. By providing essential data, observations, and insights, Care for Wild contributes to informed decision-making, as well as the enhancement and advancement of existing processes and protocols. The sanctuary actively engages in critical research projects, yielding scientific outcomes and conclusions that shape global best practices in orphan rhino care. Professional monitoring is the foundation of rhino management for conservation.

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Training Organizations Across Africa

Care for Wild has delivered training and given assistance and advice to numerous rhino conservation organizations across Africa and the United States. Petronel, with her extensive expertise, has provided invaluable assistance, advice, and guidance to enhance rhino conservation efforts in various countries including Tanzania, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The sharing of information, combined with the vast experience and knowledge accumulated by Care for Wild, plays a crucial role in the conservation of rhinoceros populations.

In 2022, Care for Wild hosted a prestigious Rhino Specialist Veterinary Workshop, drawing participants from veterinary professionals worldwide. The primary objective of this workshop was to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and the dissemination of best practices in rhino conservation. By bringing together experts from diverse backgrounds, the workshop fostered collaboration and innovation, driving the development of cutting-edge strategies aimed at preserving these magnificent creatures. This event served as a pivotal platform for the consolidation and advancement of veterinary expertise specifically tailored to the unique needs of rhino conservation.

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Orphan Rhino Blood Profiling

During the early stages of the rhino poaching crisis, the availability of reliable biochemistry and haematology reference values for rhinos was scarce. Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary, in collaboration with Dr Albertus Coetzee from West Acres Animal Hospital, has been actively collecting and analyzing blood samples from young orphaned rhinos for several years.

Using state-of-the-art IDEXX and Abaxis laboratory equipment, the sanctuary has successfully established in-house reference values for blood chemistry and haematology specific to young rhinos. This ongoing project has yielded over 70 sets of data to date, proving to be a crucial resource for diagnosis and decision-making when new arrivals enter the sanctuary.

While this valuable information is yet to be published, it is made available to other veterinarians. Notably, findings from the biochemistry analysis have been presented at prominent veterinary conferences, including the South African Veterinary Association (SAVA) Congress, SAVA Wildlife Group Congress, and the Namibian Veterinary Association Congress.

The impact of this work extends beyond Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary, benefiting veterinarians throughout Southern Africa in their treatment of orphaned rhinos. Continuous updates regarding this vital research are actively shared among the sanctuary, collaborating veterinarians, and the esteemed Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Pretoria.

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Blood & Plasma Bank

Care for Wild proudly operates as one of the few places in South Africa with a dedicated rhino emergency blood and plasma bank. Plasma contains vital antibodies that help the development of a young calf's immune system, particularly important if the orphan never received colostrum from their mother.

During routine immobilizations of the rhinos, blood is collected by a registered veterinarian following strict protocols. This blood is used to produce extremely valuable plasma. Knowing that the blood and plasma from these orphans will help to save the lives of others is always particularly poignant.

Care for Wild has already provided plasma to several organizations in need across South Africa and in 2021, this life-saving resource was utilized to support the care of newly orphaned calves Daisy and Aqauazi at Care for Wild.

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First CT Scan on an Adult Rhino in SA

In October 2021, Care for Wild and the University of Pretoria's Faculty of Veterinary Science in Onderstepoort reached a significant milestone in veterinary healthcare, diagnostic imaging, and rhino conservation when we successfully conducted the first-ever CT scan on an adult rhino in South Africa.

Oz, a white rhino orphaned by poachers in 2015, was rescued and brought to Care for Wild for rehabilitation, release, and ongoing protection. Earlier in the year, Rhino Monitors reported an unusual swelling on Oz's face. Petronel consulted with veterinarian Dr. Albertus Coetzee. After discussions with wildlife veterinarian Dr. Jacques O'Dell and Prof. Gerhard Steenkamp, a veterinary dentistry specialist and maxillofacial surgeon at the Faculty of Veterinary Science, the decision was made to transport Oz to the Onderstepoort Veterinary Academic Hospital (OVAH) for further investigation.

This collaboration resulted in a groundbreaking moment in veterinary healthcare, as well as rhino care and rehabilitation, with the first-ever CT scan performed on a live adult rhino in South Africa. The experience, information, and knowledge gained from this achievement represent significant progress in the ongoing battle to protect this crucial species from extinction. The CT scan revealed a tooth root abscess and appropriate treatment was administered. Oz was subsequently transported back to Care for Wild and reunited with his rhino crash.

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