White rhino at San Diego Zoo Safari Park may have a bullet wound - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

White rhino at San Diego Zoo Safari Park may have a bullet wound

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A southern white rhinoceros might have been shot by poachers in South Africa before being brought last year to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, where she's being treated for a stubborn wound that hasn't healed, park officials said.

According to San Diego Zoo Global, animal care staff have been treating the wound on the left side of the female rhino named Wallis. Further examination showed the wound was more extensive than first thought, and appeared to have been caused by a penetrating foreign object.

Earlier this week, staff used a metal detector to pick up a strong signal of a piece of brass or lead under the wound. More imaging is needed before veterinarians can decide how to treat the injury -- the zoo is even thinking of using equipment used by the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department's bomb squad.

Zoo officials said that while it can't be confirmed that the 5-year-old rhino was the target of a failed poaching attempt before it was sent to San Diego last November, such attacks have been a key factor in their population decline.

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 -- from extinction.

With only a few northern white rhinos left in the world, conservationists are hoping that future genetic techniques will allow them to reestablish 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.

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