Saturday, April 23, 2011

Heart breaking

The mother of the calf first had to sleep prior to darting the calf.

We took the opportunity to de-horn her to make her safer for the horrendous rhino poachers.

This little rhino calf I will remember forever. It was heart breaking to see him suffer so much. He was seen in good health, happily with his mother, just 2 days earlier. The game guards always try to check all our rhinos every day. Yesterday they were not found in the thick bush, which is not abnormal. But this morning they found the calf, severely distressed, dehydrated and paralysed in the hind legs. He was desperately trying to get up, but could not. The hot sun was not making things better either. I was terribly worried. His mother was standing next to him and an adult bull was waiting at around 20 meter distance. It seemed that the mother was defending her calf against attacks from this bull. Rhino bulls sometimes kill other rhinos, especially calves, and this bull was known to be aggressive. So our first thoughts were that trauma caused this acute paralysis. The prognosis of such a severe problem is poor, but of course we tried everything possible to save this calf. At first I had to immobilize the mother, as she would never allow us to come close to her fragile baby. After she fell asleep, I could dart the calf. It's important to always first wait until you are able to approach a wild animal before darting it. Dehydration, stress and myopathie (a muscle problem caused by prolonged stress, muscle strain and heat) made the anesthetics very dangerous.
Because I was worried that the calf might not survive the anesthetics, I used the lowest possible dosage of Etorphine: one drop. It worked well. The animal was asleep within 5 minutes. First thing I did was put a drip in both ears to administer as much fluid (Glucose 5% and Ringers) as possible. Then we took the opportunity to de-horn the mother to make sure that she was safe for poachers (horrible that this is necessary, but in the moment it's best for the animal).
Then we loaded the calf on the trailer to bring him to our hospital to be able to give the best possible treatment. We continued the drips during the hour journey to our quarantine facilities. The anesthetics (heart rate, breathing, blood pressure and oxygenation) were nice and steady. On top of glucose and Ringers IV, I gave a sedation to keep him calm, lots of different vitamins, minerals, antibiotics (meningitis was one of my differentials) and anti-inflammation/painkillers. With hay we made a nice soft bed for him to avoid any sores. When he was laying nicely, I gave the antidote for the etorphine. He survived the journey and anesthetics well, but the paralysis in his hind legs continued. Unfortunately the next morning he died. A very sad and frustrating case.

When the calf was asleep we put him on a stretcher to load him on a trailer.

After an hour journey we arrived at the quarantine facilities where we continued treating him.

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