By Shannon Elizabeth….
February 10th, 2016 – Pilanesberg National Park, South Africa
It has been a rough start to 2016 already for the team at Pilanesberg National Park and everyone who cares for the animals there. They have already had 3 poached dead rhinos and 3 wounded by attempted poachings. One of the wounded was shot in the shoulder and then later got in a fight with another bull. Due to his injury, he wasn’t able to defend himself and has since passed away.
Another of the critically wounded is a 6 year old female white rhino named Shannon. She was shot straight through her left front leg a few weeks ago, but subsequently (without an x-ray machine on the day) must have had some other injury to the bone or weakened muscle around the bone, which later caused a break.
Our friend and nearby vet, Dr. Gerhardus Scheepers from Zodiac Dierekliniek, had been treating Shannon. On this day, he along with friend and colleague Dr. Jana Pretorius, were in Pilanesberg to evaluate Shannon’s progress. But with the new break evident, and now extreme nature of the injury, it was decided that a veterinarian specialist should be called in. Cue Dr. Johan Marais from the group Saving The Survivors.
Between the team at Pilanesberg, Zodiac Dierekliniek and Dr. Marais, they all agreed that the injury was now quite severe. There was extreme damage to the front limb, radius and ulna. This might normally be a situation where the animal was humanely let go. But her spirit was still there. She was eating and drinking and had not given up on herself. Before this intervention, Shannon had been struggling on. So this told the group that she was fighting. If she isn’t ready to give up, then the team would not give up on her.
So the group proceeded. After Shannon was immobilized, the team took x-rays of the broken leg. They applied L-Mesitran medical grade honey and silver microbial gauze. And then Dr. Scheepers had the bright idea to reinforce the cast they were creating with aluminum rods. They felt this would give her the most support and the best chance at surviving. To their knowledge, this type of cast has never been done before!
During the procedure, Shannon’s friend Elizabeth was circling the group. She wanted to keep a close eye on Shannon and be there for her when she woke up. And when that time came, Shannon was able to stand right up and walk off with her friend. The group has been amazed at her resilience and strength. Every day is a small victory. Since the surgery, Shannon has been seen moving around the park and even spotted at a local watering hole. She is grazing, which is a great sign. The team is remaining cautiously optimistic about her prognosis.
But, she’s not out of the woods yet. There will be a lot of follow-up needed. And as with most of these things, you never know what new obstacles might be thrown your way. But the vets are all on call, ready to be at her side at the first sign that she needs them. And tightened security in the park is keeping a very close eye on our girl. They are going to do everything they can to make sure she’s safe from any future poachers who try to make their way onto the property and they’ll let the team know how her healing is coming along.
What’s happening to the rhinos today is not anything that was ever anticipated years and years ago. When these vets went to school, it’s not as if they were taught how to treat poaching victims. So much of what they do is simply combining their knowledge, applying what might work on another animal (or even human) to the rhino, trial and error, on the job research and praying for the best possible outcomes. These vets that are saving the lives of the innocent are nothing short of angels assisting in making miracles happen. They are constantly being put in unique positions where they have to make on the fly decisions that will literally mean life or death for the animal.
For those who don’t know…the demand for rhino horn is coming from China and Vietnam. They believe it has magical healing qualities and it’s thought to be a status symbol. The reality is, it’s nothing more than the keratin in your fingernails. But the black market is paying a very high price for these horns. So the poachings continue. It’s a very layered, complex subject with many angles to the fight and no one size fits all solution. But the bottom line is, these animals are majestic, magnificent, loving sentient beings and their horns should stay on them as horns. The horns serve as their protection. These animals are part of the eco-system we call nature. Nature is perfect. Every animal, plant and insect has a place. They’re all part of a chain. If you break that chain by removing any link, the whole thing can crumble. Every animal is needed. Every animal is love. Every living being is part of the same energetic light source from many worlds, dimensions, time and space.
If you want to support the work of these angels on earth, your help is so desperately needed!!
The specialist called in was Dr. Johan Marais from Saving The Survivors. He along with his partner Dr. Gerhard Steenkamp, are continuously doing state of the art, lifesaving work on the animals of South Africa. Their experience, skills, equipment and knowledge are some of the best you’ll ever find. Saving The Survivors have agreed to carry most of the costs associated with caring for Shannon. This work with the rhinos and trying to save this species is not only the mission of their organization, but their life mission. It’s deep ingrained within their hearts and souls.
It is humans who are hurting these animals. And now we’re asking them to trust us to help them. The very species who attack them are now trying to help? The fear and confusion these rhinos must experience is overwhelming. And many rhinos have died from stress. Stress is certainly not limited to humans who get upset being late to a meeting or receiving the wrong latte. And how trivial does that sound now when you compare it to actual life and death situations people and animals are facing every single day in our world?
But I digress. If you’d like to donate to the ongoing care of Shannon and actually know you’re helping a rhino who immediately needs to restore her faith in humanity, then please donate here: http://savingthesurvivors.org/donate-now/.
As for the team at Pilanesberg…the national parks get very limited funding from the government of South Africa. So to assist in their efforts, they’ve created a non-profit called the Pilanesberg Wildlife Trust. Steve Dell, who you see in the photo below, is the Field Ecologist for Pilanesberg National Park. The trust is run by many great people, including his wife, Perry Dell. They are helping to sustain the park and the beautiful animals within it so that we may keep them safe and enjoy all that area has to offer for lifetimes to come. If you’d like to learn more or donate to their tireless efforts, please visit http://www.pilanesbergwildlifetrust.co.za/.
It gets very lonely for a ranger to be out in the field for weeks and months on end. It helps their morale so much to know that there are people who care all over the world. We care about the animals and the people who protect them day in and day out. Through rain or shine or the extreme heat of Africa, they are out there protecting the animals and park from unimaginable circumstances. Years ago when someone became a ranger, the potential of being shot by a poacher was not an issue. Today, the risks have completely changed.
Please follow the work of the heroes of South Africa. Please support their efforts and let them know you are here and care. They need us now more than ever. My non-profit, Animal Avengers, is making a donation to both Saving The Survivors and Pilanesberg Wildlife Trust for the ongoing care of Shannon and the work of these great people. Please join us in the fight!!
And for anyone who’s wondering, I visited pretty much everyone in this article on my last trip to South Africa. I was told that the team at Pilanesberg named Shannon (& I’m guessing Elizabeth) after me. I am honored, humbled and grateful! I will be sending them all strength every day and supporting them in every way I can. Our energy and prayers exceed space and time. Please join me in the fight.
Together we can be the generation who save this species and change the world!!
Pictures courtesy of Saving The Survivors and Perry Dell.
Shannon and Elizabeth are still together. This is a short video of them crossing the road in the park. Shannon is walking well on her cast, all things considered. Video courtesy of Charlotte Marais.