SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Further testing today on a wounded southern white rhinoceros that may have been shot during a poaching attempt in South Africa was inconclusive, San Diego Zoo Global officials said.
Wallis, a 5-year-old female brought to the zoo's Safari Park last November, has a penetrating wound that hasn't responded to treatment. Thursday, zoo officials said they think Wallis might have been targeted by poachers before her move, and some tests have picked up indications of a brass or lead object under the injury.
Animal care staff tried more imaging to get a better assessment of the wound.
"Today's radiograph and ultrasound was conducted on Wallis with the hope of detecting any foreign object that may be the cause of her existing wound," said Jim Oosterhuis, a Safari Park veterinarian.
"We will await the results of the ultrasound, but unfortunately, the radiograph was not successful in detecting anything, due to the sheer size of Wallis," Oosterhuis said. "Her skin is over an inch thick, and she's about two and-a-half feet wide -- and we can't get deep enough to obtain the image we need."
He said the next step is to seek assistance from the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, which has offered the use of specialized imaging equipment used by their bomb squad. That exam will be scheduled in the near future, he said.
Wallis is one of six female rhinos that were relocated to the Safari Park from private reserves in South Africa, as part of a conservation effort to save the critically endangered northern white rhino -- and all rhino species --
With only a few northern white rhinos left in the world, conservationists are hoping that future genetic techniques will allow them to replenish the species -- using female southern white rhinos as hosts.
Rhinos are poached for their horn, which is made of keratin -- the same material that forms human fingernails. Rhino horn has been erroneously thought to have medicinal value and is used in traditional remedies in some Asian cultures.
In addition, objects made of rhino horn have more recently become a status symbol, purchased to display someone's success and wealth, because the rhino is now so rare and endangered.