The replacement of Lion’s Den’s cast

Once again, on Friday, 31 January, Dr Rogers and his crew arrived at 3pm to replace Lion’s Den’s damaged cast covering the once-exposed sinus cavity.

The darting took less effort than expected but the ever-protective Dingle Dell was patrolling and threatening the vehicles and the team which made things tricky.

Once darted, Lion’s Den went down in a densely grown part of the rhino camp. Her head came to rest on a big shrub. The maintenance staff and rangers quickly jumped in with pangas and a saw to clear the area so that they could work on Lion’s Den.

Meanwhile, another member of the team was ensuring that Dingle Dell didn’t cause any problems by keeping her away with a safari vehicle.

After the shrubs were cleared, an intra-venous catheter was inserted into Lion’s Den’s ear for easy access to a vein – this makes it easier to administer drugs directly into the bloodstream. This ensures that if something should go wrong while the rhino is under sedation, they can quickly administer the reversal drug without the hassle of looking for a vein. Blood was also taken for testing.

Lion’s Den’s cast was seriously damaged, leaving most of the wound exposed. What was left of the old cast was removed. A few maggots were found in the wound but luckily, Dr Rogers was certain that there was nothing to be concerned about. Water was used to clean the dirt from the once-exposed sinuses, followed by an alcoholic-based wound disinfectant. Dr Rogers was very pleased to say that he was satisfied with the way the sinus cavities have healed up – even better than he had expected.

Antibiotic spray was applied to the wound, followed by an antibiotic powder. An absorbent dressing was then placed over this. The team positioned a crate under the rhino’s head to make her more comfortable.

The rhino must be turned every 30 minutes in order to ensure blood flow to the limbs is not restricted. As you can imagine, turning the rhino is no easy feat. It takes the entire team’s unified effort to complete the task.

Once the rhino was turned, the first layer of the cast was applied to the sinuses. After placing the cast over the area, a piece of galvanized sheet metal was cut to size and hammered to fit over the cast.

This is to ensure that Lion’s Den does not scratch through the top part of her cast. Five holes were drilled and a screw and washer were used to secure the plate and the underlying cast to the bones of the sinus cavities. Further securing of the metal ‘lid’ to the cast was done with pop rivets. The screws, washers and rivets were all disinfected in an alcohol-based disinfectant.

Another cast was placed over this metal lid and secured to the cast with screws.

The area was cleared of all equipment and the sedation was reversed. After getting up, Lion’s Den disappeared into the bush.

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