San Diego Zoo Safari Park Finds Metal in Southern White Rhino Targeted by Poachers

Wallis, a 5-year-old female Southern White Rhino, has metal fragments inside her body that suggests she survived a poaching attempt.

A metal detector from the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department found metal fragments inside a Southern White Rhino at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, according to San Diego Zoo Global officials.

The metal pieces suggest that Wallis, a 5-year-old female rhino, was the target of a failed poaching attempt while in South Africa. Officials said she has a suspected bullet wound on her left side that has been slowly healing. However, the metal detector shows there’s also a possible bullet, made of brass or lead, lodged in her body underneath the wound.

The Zoo’s X-Ray equipment was not powerful enough to detect metal by penetrating the rhino's thick body, explained Jim Oosterhuis, DVM, at San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

“We are grateful to the San Diego Fire Department Bomb Squad for providing their expertise and the type of equipment needed to do this,” Oosterhuis said, in a statement.

The animal care team at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park preferred to use the most noninvasive type of diagnostic techniques available. Officials said they will most likely proceed to anesthetize the animal and do more X-rays to pinpoint the exact location of the metal fragments.

“The bomb technicians are trained in X-raying animals, and people, for that matter,” said bomb squad commander Captain John Wood, in a statement. “It’s a skill that’s rarely used, but we were happy to be able to help the Safari Park.”

Wallis’ condition is not considered life-threatening, said officials. The rhino is currently expected to survive. Despite having metal fragments lodged in her body, she is continuing to eat well and be active. She is one of six female rhinos that were taken to the Safari Park from private reserves in South Africa.

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