Butchered rhino's final hours

Last week we focused on facts and figures of rhino poaching in Southern Africa. This year alone 287 rhino have been poached in South Africa. Having just completed a six week conservation awareness tour of New Zealand and Australia, part of our presentation included footage of a rhino whose horns were hacked off while he was still alive.

The vet who bred this rhino, Dr Will Fowlds, is still struggling with the trauma of watching the magnificent animal die in agony.

In a recent letter to Environment Africa he said: “These living dinosaurs are truly iconic symbols of our successes and failures as custodians of this planet. The current rhino situation is a dying testimony of our conservation efforts. If we are not able to save the rhino from extinction, this flagship species that’s larger than life, what hope do we have of saving the rest?”

He said the horror of Geza’s final hours and euthanasia would remain branded in his memory forever. Here are some excerpts from his story:

There in a small clearing stood an animal, hardly recognisable as a rhino, his profile completely changed by the absence of those iconic horns attributed to no other species. More nauseating was the skull and soft tissue trauma extending down into the remnants of his face, to expose the underlying nasal passages.

As he became more aware of my presence he lifted his head revealing pieces of loose flesh which hung semi-detached from his deformed and bloodied face. He turned in my direction, his left front leg providing no support and could only be dragged behind him. To compensate for this, he used his mutilated muzzle and nose as a crutch and staggered toward me. His one eye was injured and clouded over, adding to his horrific appearance.

How low had we as humans had fallen to inflict so much suffering on such a magnificent creature whose care had been entrusted to us?

There was no chance of saving this life and the most humane thing to do would be to end this tragedy by euthanasia for this animal. I felt we needed to let the world to see the horrendous suffering, but could a vet, who more than most should understand the extent of suffering that this animal had gone through and was still enduring, be at ethical liberty to extend it a little longer?

Would those who do care, and even those who purport not to care, be shocked out of their complacency at the sight of such inhumanity? If they could, in some way, be made to feel part of the massacre, then perhaps this cruel and senseless killing might stop.

It was agreed to call in a camera team to get footage. This rhino was indeed “Geza” – the Naughty One – a male born on Amakhala, the reserve on which I live, in January 2006 as the second calf of “Nomabongo” – the Proud Lady. Geza's name came about because from a very early age he would challenge older rhino in a mischievous manner and then bundle back to the safety of his ever protective mother.

The camera-crew finally arrived and I was finally able to bring this nightmare to an end. The most humane way to end it all was to administer an overdose of opioid anaesthetic. Within a few minutes the drugs were taking effect. A sense of relief mingled with sadness, disgust and shame descended over that small piece of Africa, which for long hours had been gripped in tension and violation. The heavy bullet which would ensure finality to this living nightmare slammed though his skull, with the noise and shock wave blasting out across the landscape, heralding the end to a tortured and agonising struggle. – The footage of this horrific crime can be accessed at


22nd October is World Rhino Day – please pass on this story to as many people as possible and it is true, rhino horn has no medicinal value. The killing has to STOP now. Do your bit for rhino and sponsor a Rhino Acre in Southern Africa – www.environmentafrica.org

Post published in: Environment

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