South African rhino finally put down after roaming Kruger park for days with horn hacked off and bullet in brain

Rangers said young animal could have been suffering for more than a week after horrific mutilation by poachers

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The Independent Online

Park rangers in South Africa say that they have found and put down a white rhino which had wandered for days with its horn hacked off and a bullet in its brain.

The young animal had been mutilated by poachers, leaving it with a horrific gaping wound where its horn should have been and severe damage to its eye.

It was spotted by visitors to the Kruger national park on 28 February, and their footage of the rhino was shared widely by a disgusted public on South African social media.

After a five-day search involving helicopters, sniffer dogs and a team of trackers, the rhino was found still alive but in a grave condition.

"An assessment was conducted to determine the extent of the injuries and suffering. It was discovered that a bullet had lodged in the rhino's brain and therefore any chance of survival was slim," said Reynold Thakhuli, Head of Communications at South African National Parks (SANParks).

He told News24: "People must be able to understand that our main task is conservation, but if you look at the pain that it endured we had to end its suffering. Its brain had been affected by the bullet, as well as one eye."

Warning: some readers may find this footage distressing

SANParks thanked the tourists who brought the rhino's condition to the attention of the authorities, as well as the dedication of the rangers who tracked it over a long distance and challenging terrain.

Thakhuli said the horn could have been hacked off a number of days before it was first spotted, and the fact that the animal survived was down to its young age.

The bullet recovered from the rhino's brain has now been sent for ballistic testing in a bid to determine the rifle used. According to the Mongabay environmental news site, South Africa is in the midst of a rhino poaching crisis, and lost 1,004 rhinos to poachers last year alone.

This year, 146 rhinos have reportedly already been killed - at current pace, the country is losing over two rhinos to poaching every single day, the worst rate in the world.