Rhinos continue to be in danger of poaching for their horns. In South Africa in 2014, 1,215 rhinos were killed, in comparison with only 333 rhinos killed in 2010. But recently, a 12-year-old rhino named Hope was given a second chance after poachers cut her horn off.
Hope’s entire front horn was cut off, and surrounding bones in her face were removed. Her 5-year-old calf did not survive the poachers’ attack. But thanks to skilled veterinarians, Hope received a skin graft — with elephant skin! With soft tissue exposed on her face, vets decided that tough elephant skin would be the best bet for a skin graft. With wild animals, there isn’t much room for error. The goal is that only one procedure will be needed to help the animal, as post-operative care can be difficult.
Skin grafts are possible treatment options for both humans and animals, thanks to research with animals in the laboratory. Transplanting organs, including skin, is no easy task, but fortunately, we are at the point where this technology is able to benefit animals like Hope. Read more about Hope’s surgery here and about the research behind skin grafts and organ transplantation here.