Skin graft first for a live rhino

Gareth Wilson

IN a groundbreaking procedure, surgeons performed the first ever skin graft on a live rhino this week. White rhino Thandi, 14, underwent an hour-long operation on Monday morning after she was injured in a scuffle with a newcomer to the reserve, a 10-year-old rhino bull.

Thandi survived a poaching attack at the Kariega Game Reserve last year in which she was dehorned.

The procedure was performed by two of the country’s top wildlife veterinary surgeons – Dr Gerhard Steenkamp and Dr Johan Marais, of the ARC-Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute – and Pretoria plastic surgeon Dr Alistair Lamont.

They were assisted by wildlife veterinary expert William Fowlds.

“This is the first time this kind of skin graft is being done on a live rhino. We have combined techniques used in the veterinary field as well as the human sphere to hopefully formulate a skin graft that will help other rhinos that survive such brutal attacks,” Fowlds said.

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