Saving the Survivors: Creating Hope from Hurt
Dr. Zöe Glyphis, South African Veterinarian at Saving the Survivors NGO, shares what it’s like to work on the front line, putting emotions aside and giving the rhinos left for dead a chance for survival.
Saving the Survivors was founded in 2012 by Dr Johan Marais to attend to injured endangered wildlife that has fallen victim to poaching or traumatic incidents. Due to the exponential rise in poaching incidents, STS works flat out to find the fallen and tend to them before it is too late. To date, the STS team has saved 203 animals through various interventions and surgical procedures. Most animals are treated in their natural habitat as transporting injured wildlife increases the risk and trauma experienced by these animals.
What’s your story?
In 2012 Dr Marais realised that there was a dire need to learn more about endangered species and their veterinary care. Too little was known about rhino and elephant, and he did not want to be faced with the situation that when there are only a handful of the species left, that one needs to now try and make up lost time in order to save a species. STS was started mid to late 2012 and the main aim was to learn as much as possible about rhino and their care, as fast as possible. It started with the treatment of horrific facial injuries induced by poachers, and has gone on to abdominal surgeries, orthopaedic surgery and even drug trials.
The hardest thing
It is very difficult to see the sheer brutality of a rhino poaching case. Emotions vary from extreme despair, that a human can inflict such pain and suffering on such a beautiful animal, to indescribable rage at what has happened. We fortunately do not have much time to let these emotions override our thought processes and we get straight to work to try and save the animal in front of us. It is always more taxing on us when we see how difficult it is for the people with us on the scene — these people often see these rhino as their ‘children’ and that is emotionally very, very difficult…
Your most memorable experience?
On the 24th of November 2014 a White Rhino cow was bought into the hospital for a ulna fracture repair — she had already suffered so much and then she never woke up from the anaesthetic as she was just too weak. The memories of that day will stay with us forever, and it was that very day that we knew that we needed to be a part of the solution! Since then we have seen truly horrific injuries that man has inflicted on these animals, and every single time it takes your breath away, shocks you to your core, and makes you want to fight even harder!
The biggest reward
We wake up every day never feeling like what we do is ‘work’. I think that every single animal that is saved is crucial to the survival of the species as a whole, and more importantly the knowledge that we gain from every single survivor makes the treatment of the next one faster and more efficient. It is very rewarding to see an animal that was once injured roaming freely and just being a rhino. It is also rewarding when a rhino goes on to have his/her own progeny — Thandi, one of our first Survivors, has just had her second calf!
The changes we must see if poaching is to decrease
We need some political will and support from Governmental bodies, which includes rooting out ALL corruption.
We need to educate all the end-users that there is absolutely no value in an animal that is extinct — it is an aberration and unacceptable in every way.
We need to offer more support to the communities surrounding our nature reserves and national parks, including education programmes, as they are the custodians of the natural world. If we do not start involving communities in conservation then there will always be conflict.
We need to support the people who own rhinos (there are over 6000 Rhino that are privately owned) — they have to pay for feed, security and they have sleepless nights wondering if they are next on the list. They need to be supported!
We need to support the rangers who never signed up to be soldiers in a war — they signed up for the love of nature.
We need to start making our voices heard!
And most of all, we need to all start working together — this war will definitely never be won alone, and definitely not if more than 350 organizations who are claiming to save the Rhino are all not willing to work together toward the common goal…
Some things that the general public can do to help are:
- Create awareness by sharing social media posting
- Help us educate the next generations
- Report illegal wildlife crime via the correct channels e.g. https://wildleaks.org/
To find more information on Saving the Survivors and how you can help please visit: