Victims Of Rhino Poaching Returned To The Wild As Survivors And Fully Rehabilitated By Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre

The Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre (HESC) has released two white rhinos back into the wild that were brought to the Centre in September 2013 after a brutal poaching attack on a neighbouring reserve left them severely maimed and barely alive.

The two beauties that ran off into an undisclosed location yesterday, 3 December, were a far cry from the pitiful animals that came to HESC five years ago. Their horns had been cut off with a chain saw while they were grazing in the reserve on 30 August 2013. The bull died on the scene and the two cows were left with gaping holes and their sinus cavities exposed where their horns had previously defined their iconic appearance.

Since named Lion’s Den and Dingle Dell by HESC, the two cows have undergone extensive treatment by a team of specialised wildlife veterinary surgeons.

Lente Roode, Executive Director and Founder Member of Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre says: “I will never forget the sight of these poor animals when they arrived at HESC. No creature should have to endure what these two cows went through on that fateful day. It is incomprehensible that humans can stoop so low for financial gain. While we do our utmost to rehabilitate poaching victims, every incident strengthens our resolve to help eradicate this scourge.”

The release of the fully rehabilitated rhinos is in line with the conservation ethos of HESC in terms of which the aim is always to release animals back into the wild, whether born in captivity or rehabilitated after trauma. By releasing the animals, their chance of procreation was greater as there were not suitable sexually mature bulls at HESC.

The treatment of the injured Lion’s Den and her calf Dingle Dell at HESC not only saved the animals’ lives, but resulted in a pioneering procedure being developed that would serve as the blueprint for rhino rehabilitation in the future.

For every treatment the animals were darted and sedated, the wounds cleaned, blood samples taken to check for infection, blood pressure and temperature measured, antibiotic ointment and dressing applied and a protective cast drilled into place over the wound. Initial treatment entailed cleaning the wounds and closing the cavities with a fibreglass cast that covered the entire nasal area. However, because the casts were a source of irritation to the animals, they were rubbed off. In subsequent treatments a sonar machine was used to locate and remove dead tissue, canals spooled and pens drilled into the bone as a supportive base for an acrylic fixture to close the sinus cavities.

When the healing process had progressed sufficiently, skin grafts were harvested and placed in the wounds – a procedure that had never before been performed on rhinos. Despite the pioneering work of our specialist veterinarian team, the road to recovery was slow. Because the healing process caused the wound to itch and our rhinos to rub off their casts, flies and maggots infested the wounds resulting in repeated infection. A metal plate placed over the cast and fixed in place with pop rivets and screws proved a solution to the problem.

On 30 August 2016, three years after the poaching incident, Lion’s Den and Dingle Dell were dehorned to protect them from further poaching. It had taken almost 23 months, 26 treatments and close on 400 screws for Lion’s Den to reach this point. Dingle Dell recovered with fewer treatments.

While projects such as the rehabilitation of Lion’s Den and Dingle Dell are facilitated and conducted by HESC, financing and administration is provided by the Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT), a public benefit organisation established for this purpose. The WCT manages all donations, sponsorships, fund-raising initiatives and the sourcing of corporate sponsorships on behalf of HESC.

The story of Dingle Dell and Lion’s Den is but one of the many stories about animals rescued and rehabilitated at HESC. There have been many rhinos before and after these two animals, each with a story more horrific than the previous or the next.

Lente Roode says the biggest challenge in terms of rehabilitating rhinos, besides the costly treatments, is the financial burden of providing security to prevent further poaching atrocities. Poaching of rhinos for their horns is escalating worldwide and in South Africa the massacre of these iconic animals remains a constant threat and has reached epidemic levels. No reserve is guaranteed a safe haven.

At HESC stringent measures are in place to ensure the safety of animals and employees and the Centre’s Anti-poaching Unit (APU) is ever vigilant. Established and operated in conjunction with Kapama Private Game Reserve and Camp Jabulani, the APU is renowned in the greater Kruger area

In all 13 rhinos have been taken in at HESC after poaching attacks which left them either injured or orphaned. All have been – or if they are still too young, will be – dehorned to discourage poachers.

Note to editors:

The Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre (HESC) is a unique African wildlife facility that focuses on the conservation of rare, vulnerable and threatened animal species. HESC has also increasingly become a refuge for animals wounded and orphaned as result of poaching.

The story and rehabilitation of Lion’s Den and her calf Dingle Dell after surviving a poaching incident reflects the dedication of HESC in caring for animals in need. A full graphic account of this story is recorded in HESC blogs ( where it is related as a first-hand account by Adine Roode.

The end

Released on behalf of Lente and Adine Roode For further information contact Sue Howells Mobile: 083 410 9682 Email: