Spencer the rhino died of conditions related to old age and there was nothing vets could have done, the owners of the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve said on Tuesday while releasing the postmortem results of the rhino that died this month while under anaesthetic.

“The post-mortem, supported by laboratory tests, indicates that abnormal heart, liver and kidney conditions contributed towards the death of the rhino while immobilised,” said Dr Charles van Niekerk, the wildlife vet in charge.

Spencer died on February 9 as local and international media watched vets place microchips, a transmitter and a tracking device into the rhino’s horn as part of an anti-poaching initiative.

Also placed in the horn was a bright pink dye and an ectoparasiticide that was aimed as an additional deterrent against poachers. To rule out whether the ectoparasiticide contributed to the rhino’s death, toxicology tests were done. Poisoning was not a cause of death, according to Van Niekerk.

Rhino and Lion Park marketing manager Lorinda Hern said on Tuesday the operation had been fast-tracked as anti-poaching operations had picked up that Spencer had become a target.

Hern said the post-mortem, carried out at the Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute, had found lesions on Spencer’s heart, liver and kidney.

“One of these conditions in isolation might not have led to his death, but it was a cumulative effect,” she explained.

Before Spencer’s death, Van Niekerk had never lost a rhino in more than 500 operations involving anaesthetic.

Meanwhile, tourists on Tuesday chanced upon the carcasses of two white rhinos at the Napi Boulders Loop in the Pretoriuskop ranger section of the Kruger National Park. - The Star