National 11.8.2016 04:41 pm

Young rhino saved by groundbreaking surgery

Dr Johan Marais operates on Pablo the rhino.

Dr Johan Marais operates on Pablo the rhino.

Pablo, a three-year-old white rhino bull, has received the first-ever arthroscopic surgery on a rhino to repair damage to his wrist joint caused by a bullet.

A University of Pretoria veterinary surgeon has performed the first-ever arthroscopic operation (keyhole surgery on a joint) on a rhino, Pretoria East Rekord reports.

Earlier this year Pablo the rhino was shot during an attack by poachers. The bullet got lodged in his wrist joint. He was operated on on Monday by Dr Johan Marais, founder of the nongovernmental organisation (NGO) Saving the Survivors.

The NGO cares for rhinos that have fallen victim to poachers or suffered other traumatic incidents. An estimated 80 to 120 animals benefit from this project a year.

“This number will increase as the amount of poached rhinos increase,” said Marais.

Marais told Rekord the surgery paved the way to new ways of treating injured rhinos.

“This surgery had never been done (on a rhino) so it was important to see if we would be successful, as that would mean more rhinos would benefit in future.”

Marais said if poaching continued, at least 10 rhinos would benefit from this type of operation a year.

“A rhino’s skin is quite thick, so it is difficult to get access through the skin which made the surgery more difficult.”

Marais said Pablo was doing well and was already walking.

“We will monitor him over the next two to four months to see how he will react to the treatment,” he said.

“We initially thought rhinos were the same as horses, anatomically and physiologically. Over the last few years however, we realised some things in rhinos are the same as horses, some the same as cows, and then some things are completely unique.”

Marais said he loved treating abused animals. He said normal people could make a meaningful difference in the fight against rhino poaching by raising the awareness of the problem.

“Also by donating to organisations such as Saving the Survivors, where every rand goes directly towards saving and treating a rhino.”

Pablo the rhino during surgery.

Pablo the rhino during surgery.

– Caxton News Service

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