Research

Prior to the escalating rhino poaching crisis, very little was known with regards to the successful rescue, rehabilitation, and rewilding of orphaned rhinos. Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary is providing key data, observations and insights that allow for better informed decision making as well as the improvement and development of existing processes and protocols. Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary is actively involved in a number of critical research projects, the scientific outcomes and conclusions which are helping to shape best practices in orphan rhino care.

Detailed Record Keeping

Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary holds detailed and comprehensive records on the rescue, rehabilitation, and rewilding of over 70 rhino orphans. Meticulous record keeping of permits, admission details, ICU monitoring, weights, biometrics, feeding plans, daily behavioural observations, key movement data, medical history, blood profiles and reintroduction monitoring is of paramount importance for research, education, and future referencing.

Blood Profiling

Over the past five years Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary and Dr Albertus Coetzee from West Acres Animal Hospital have been collecting and analysing blood samples of young orphan rhinos. At the onset of the project very little usable biochemistry and haematology reference values were available for rhino. Using both IDEXX and Abaxis laboratory equipment, in-house reference blood chemistry and haematology values of young rhino have since been established.  It is an ongoing project and to date 70 sets of data have been collected. This has been an essential aid in diagnosis and decision making for new arrivals in the sanctuary. To ensure that this not yet published knowledge is available for other veterinarians, findings of the biochemistry analysis has been presented at the South African Veterinary Association (SAVA) Congress, SAVA Wildlife Group Congress as well as the Namibian Veterinary Association Congress. Veterinarians all over Southern Africa have so far benefited from this work as an aid in the treatment of orphaned rhinos. Further updates of this important work are continuously being shared between ourselves, other veterinarians and the Faculty of Veterinary Science, at the University of Pretoria.

Milk Replacement Formula

Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary is working in conjunction with Prof Christiaan Cruywagen of the Department of Animal Sciences, Stellenbosch University, and wildlife nutritionist Craig Shepstone from Wildlife Nutrition Services on the development of a new and closer to nature orphan rhino milk replacer.

Weights, Biometrics & Teething

Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary records the weight progression and biometrics of each rhino calf. This collective information can assist in establishing the age of a newly admitted calf as well as monitoring the ongoing progression and development of a growing calf. Some orphans have arrived as young as 5 days old allowing us to record observations on teething as well and the associated symptoms.

Wound Care

Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary has received a large number of rhino calves with brutal and debilitating machete and bullet wounds as well as calves with extensive injuries from lion and hyena attacks. Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary is working alongside veterinarians Dr Albertus Coetzee of West Acres Animal Hospital and Dr Ferreira du Plessis of the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA), to establish best practices in wound care, infection control and pain management.

Collaboration with Rhino Repro

In November 2019, Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary partnered with international rhino reproductive specialists, Dr Morne de la Rey and Dr Hendrik Hansen of Rhino Repro. 5 oocytes were successfully obtained from rehabilitated and released, rhino orphan Timbi as well as healthy semen from sub adult rhino bull, Storm. In January 2020 Dr Morne, Dr Hendrick and Dr Albertus Coetzee of West Acres Animal Hospital, performed the WORLD’s FIRST progesterone synchronised artificial insemination on Timbi and fellow crash member, Olive. Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary is continuing to work in partnership with Rhino Repro as we take these pivotal steps towards securing viable rhino breeding populations that will ensure a future for the species. Visit Rhino Repro’s Website

Rewilding – Cybertracker & SMART systems

After the completion of a thorough rehabilitation programme, the rhino orphans at Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary enter a rewilding programme. This equally complex and lengthy process successfully reintroduces the rhinos to their natural habitat. The ongoing monitoring and data collected throughout this process contributes towards the strategic planning of the rhinos’ security and protection as well as providing key behavioural information relating to social interaction, changing group dynamics, dominance, the establishment of territories and reproduction. This information is recorded by the Rhino Monitors on tablets through the mobile data collection systems of Cybertracker and SMART.