Emergency technicians around the world are well-versed in the art of CPR, but what do you do if your patient is a 900-pound rhino? 

This is exactly what the medical team from Working with Rhinos had to figure out after an orphaned rhino calf had a negative reaction to sedatives during a routine dehorning operation. Thanks to the dedication of the staff, we're pleased to report that this story has a happy ending.


 

Due to ongoing concerns about dwindling rhino numbers in South Africa, a team of wildlife officials made the call to have all rhinos at the Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary (CWRS) dehorned to help deter poachers from targeting the animals. "Meha" was among the orphaned calves to undergo the procedure. Although dehorning is a non-invasive, routine operation, trouble came before the horn was even removed. 

"Thanks to continuous monitoring by the SANParks team, it was immediately identified that Meha’s breathing and pulse had come to a complete stop," Working With Rhinos wrote in a Facebook update. The young rhino was experiencing an adverse reaction to the sedatives used to keep her immobile. 

CWRS co-founder Chris de Bruno Austin jumped into action, initiating CPR by blowing into Meha's nose, while several other members collectively performed the necessary chest compressions. "Chris and the team refused to give up," says Working with Rhinos. "And after several painstaking minutes, Meha was successfully resuscitated and began to breathe on her own." 

Despite its alleged medicinal uses (of which none are legitimate) rhino horn is mostly made of keratin which is the same thing that comprises your nails and hair. And yet, demand for these glorified toenails continues to leave rhinos like Meha in desperate need for care. 

The young female came to the organization in 2015 after being found standing by her mother's carcass – a harrowing scenario that has played out for many young rhino calves in South Africa. Her mother died at the hands of poachers and Meha stayed by her side for two days before being rescued. When she arrived at the sanctuary she was extremely dehydrated and distressed. This is the second time she has bounced back despite all odds. 

Thanks to the dedicated staff, this little rhino has made a full recovery since the incident and is now grazing in the fields with her fellow rhino orphans.

To learn more about how you can help save South Africa's baby rhinos, visit the sanctuary website here

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Top header image: Paolo Lucciola/Flickr