A young rhino is getting stronger by the day after poachers hacked off her horns and left her for dead earlier this month.
Nicknamed Hope, the four-year-old white rhino was found in South Africa’s Lombardi Game Farm days after her mother was found dead.
Both rhinos were shot by large-calibre rifles. And both were found with their horns cut off.
By the time Hope was found, her mutilated face had become infested with maggots, her nasal passage and sinus cavities exposed to air.
A team of veterinarians with the group Saving The Survivors performed major surgery on May 18, cleaning the wound and removing dead and damaged tissue. A fibreglass cast was applied to her face.
Here are some photos the group shared about Hope’s progress.
WARNING: This slideshow contains a graphic image.
A team of veterinarians help dress Hope's wound with a new cast on May 18.
The group offers an update on Hope's condition after her surgery: "She is alive!!"
"Even though she is far from out of danger, her bloods have come back surprisingly clean," the group wrote on May 19. They noted a "marked improvement" in Hope's condition from the previous day, adding her appetite returning.
WARNING: This next slide contains a graphic photo of Hope's injury when veterinarians found her
"Sorry for the graphic nature of the photos, but people should start seeing what is being done to our rhino...and what we deal with on a daily basis," wrote the group after posting a photo of Hope's wound.
Veterinarians cover Hope's wound with a fibreglass cast.
Two days after her surgery, veterinarians note Hope's strength slowly returning to her.
Hope pictured on May 24.
Veterinarians note positive signs with Hope's recovery including improvements with her breathing, eating, and drinking. Here she is in a photo uploaded to Facebook on May 25.
“She has got a long road ahead of her. We estimate it will take at least a year until the wound is actually healed,” said Dr. Gerhard Steenkamp in an update about Hope’s condition.
“If we can save Hope and she can go back and produce more offspring, then in her lifetime she would have contributed to the survival of the species,” he told The Associated Press.
It’s a crisis that’s worsening compared to the number of rhinos killed by poachers between 2000 and 2007. In those years, an average of 21 rhinos were killed annually to mostly meet growing demand among the affluent in Asian countries for their horns.
Last year, poaching-related rhino deaths set a record in South Africa. The country is home to over 90 per cent of the world’s remaining rhinos.
According to statistics collected from conservation group Save The Rhinos, 1,215 were killed in 2014 — one death every eight hours.
As for Hope, veterinarians are cautiously optimistic. Saving the Survivors has been sharing regular updates about the young rhino’s condition on Facebook.
“One thing is for certain — she is a fighter, this one, and has a desire to survive second to none,” said the group.