Hope‚ the baby rhino who captured the heart of millions around the world after she was horribly maimed in a botched poaching attempt in the Eastern Cape‚ has died.
Hope grabbed international headlines in May when medics adapted surgery normally used on humans to help save her life.
The six-year-old rhino underwent several procedures to repair a gaping wound caused when poachers hacked away most of her face.
- Experts use innovative surgery on plucky rhino
She had been relocated to an animal rehabilitation centre by endangered animal rights group‚ Saving the Survivors‚ in Limpopo after the 2015 attack.
The medical procedure used on her is normally reserved for patients who undergo abdominal surgery.
It is believed that Hope died late on Sunday from a bacterial infection she picked earlier this month.
Her death prompted an outpouring of grief on social media‚ with animal rights activists and lovers‚ expressing their grief.
In a post on Facebook on Monday‚ Saving the Survivors wrote‚ “It is with heavy hearts and great sadness that Saving The Survivors has to share the devastating news that our beloved White rhino cow‚ Hope‚ is no longer with us”.
“She was found yesterday late afternoon without life in her boma where she has been cared for since March this year. We don’t know yet what dimmed Hope’s light and we are left with a huge ‘WHY?’ today. The cause of death looks to be a bacterial infection of her small intestine‚ and we have requested further tests to shed light on this immense tragedy.
“This courageous rhino has been the face of rhino poaching survivors since she survived a brutal attack in April last year. Wandering alone in the bush for days‚ deeply hurt and with half her face hacked off‚ she survived against all odds. It was no wonder then‚ that she was christened Hope and became a worldwide ambassador for her species. Her healing was described as miraculous and she continued to show a fighting spirit‚ bar none.
“There will always be Hope‚ for this iconic rhino will live on in everyone’s hearts and in STS’s mission of Creating Hope from Hurt.”
In another poigniant post‚ Suzanne Boswell Rudham‚ of Boots on the Ground‚ posted on Facebook: “GOODBYE MY BEAUTIFUL HOPE… You were fierce. You were the ultimate warrior. An iron butterfly. I saw so much of you in me. I loved you so very much‚ more than most could ever comprehend”.
“You were my reason. My reason to fight. My reason to try. You gave me purpose…….and today you are gone. I love you. I will always love you and I will miss you. Forever.”
Karen Arnold posted: “I am deeply saddened. I’m also so thankful that since she was rescued‚ she was able to feel loving hands on her know that not all humans are evil.”
At the time of the operation‚ Saving the Survivors founder‚ Johan Marais said it was the first time ever that such a medical procedure had been used on any animal‚ “let alone a rhino”.
A Canadian manufactured medical device used a crank and pulley system‚ and relied on tension to draw the sides of the gaping wound together‚ stimulating cell regeneration and stretching the skin over the wound.
Hope quickly became a “poster child” in the fight against rhino poaching‚ gaining a huge international following.