ONNE On Onne With Veterinarian Dr Zoe Glyphis, Saving The Survivors

In addition to producing beautiful plant-based products free from synthetic chemicals, ONNE is also proudly cruelty-free. We believe that no animal should be harmed for the sake of beauty treatments or health remedies. Poaching is a cause that is close to our hearts. The consequences to the ecosystem and the animals themselves are damaging and horrifying. The team at Saving The Survivors, founded in 2012 by Dr Johan Marais, have been at the front line to help these stunning creatures. The organisation saves the animals that have fallen victims to poaching and other traumatic incidents. Today, we speak to Dr Zoe Glyphis about her work with Saving The Survivors. We discussed the key to change and what you can do to help.

It is such a privilege to be able to feature you and your cause. Tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to be a veterinarian?

I completed my Veterinary Science degree in 2015 after doing a BSc in Animal Sciences and an honours degree in Wildlife Management. I grew up in a household full of animal lovers and animals, and it was almost a natural progression. The satisfaction of knowing that you can make a positive difference to an animal’s life is exhilarating.

How did you first join Saving The Survivors?

I walked into Dr (Johan) Marais’ office as a student in early 2014 after hearing about STS and of the horrors of rhino poaching. I asked him how we could get involved and how we could help. After a brief introduction, I started a drive to sell t-shirts to my fellow students at Onderstepoort and it grew from there. I spent most of my free time helping when and where I could, and I was very fortunate to attend to a few of STS’s cases when I was still a student. My passion just grew from there.

What is your first memory of working on a victim of poaching?

I had seen a few cases before this specific one on the 24th of November 2014, and I was still a student at the time. A White Rhino cow was bought into the hospital for an ulna fracture repair -- she had already suffered so much. She was so weak that she never woke up from the anesthetic. The memories of that day will stay with me forever, and it was that very day that I decided that I need to be a part of the solution! Since then we have seen truly horrific injuries that man has inflicted on these animals, and every single time it takes your breath away, shocks you to your core, and makes you want to fight even harder!

Saving The Survivors has saved over 203 animals, that is such an amazing effort. How proud does this make you feel?

I wake up every day never feeling like what I do is ‘work’. I think that every single animal saved is crucial to the survival of the species as a whole. More importantly, the knowledge gained from every single survivor makes the treatment of the next one more fast and more efficient.

It must be hard every day seeing the trauma these animals have endured. What do you find most challenging about your work?

The biggest challenge is just keeping a level head when working with these animals. People seem to forget that they are extremely large, and extremely dangerous wild animals. If emotion gets in the way of common sense and practical experience, then you have set yourself up for disaster.

The STS team treats most animals in their natural habitat. You and your team have to fly in and travel great distances to treat these animals. Tell us a little bit about the process.

STS will either receive a call from the animal's owner, or the closest veterinarian if he/she have decided that it needs special or intensive care. Based on the history and clinical signs provided to us by the owner or vet, we decide how urgent the case is. Then we will either travel by road or charter a plane or helicopter in urgent cases. We carry a lot of heavy and expensive equipment that is crucial in the field, so this is usually one of the deciding factors too.

What do you wish other people knew about poaching and the rhino and elephants you treat?

We are most definitely not winning this war (regardless of what you may hear or think) and we need to up our game before we have none of these beautiful creatures left! And this does not only include rhino and elephants but all of our wildlife. It is our responsibility to ensure the survival of all animals – when they are gone, they are gone forever… Unless people start to speak up and take action, future generations will only be seeing these animals on internet searches and in picture books.

Apart from treating victims of poaching, what else is Saving the Survivors doing to educate people about this cause?

Saving the Survivors has a very strong social media presence – we are on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – we use media to educate the world about the horrors of poaching. We give talks at local and international events to try and broaden the knowledge of people who do not see this kind of tragedy every day. We also run an online education campaign.

What other NGO’s/ Charities have you teamed up with to gain more traction for this education process? Can you tell us a little more about this?

We partner with an organization based in the UK called Working for Wildlife and we run an education program that is aimed at school children. We feel that educating the next generation is crucial to the survival of all animals. This is especially true for endangered species such as the rhino. We have taken the program to schools in Taiwan and we are working on rolling it out all over the world. If we can make children passionate about conservation, then we already have a brighter future for our rhino. We cannot expect people to care about things that they know nothing about.

Your work is so intense and must be highly emotional at times. What do you do when you aren’t working and how do you switch off?

Spending time with friends, family and my own animals take the edge off. I have an absolute passion for nature and the bush, and try to spend as much time outdoors as possible!

What do you feel needs to be done to help tackle the poaching crisis?

We need to support the people who own rhino. Over 6,000 rhino are privately owned and the owners have to pay for feed and security for these animals. We should support rangers who did not sign up to be soldiers in a war, rather for the love of nature. Involving communities is crucial for conservation efforts. Finally, we need to make our voices heard! Most of all, we need to work together. This war cannot be won without help. There are more than 350 rhino conservation organisations and we need to work together towards a common goal.

Reality is, we are on the brink of losing this battle, and the Rhino being extinct within the next decade. What are the top things you feel society can do to change this right away?

We need some political will and support from governmental bodies, which includes rooting out all corruption. It is important to educate all the end-users that there is absolutely no value in an animal that is extinct. Poaching is an aberration and unacceptable in every way. We need to offer more support to the communities surrounding our nature reserves and national parks, including education programmes, as they are the custodians of the natural world. If we do not start involving communities in conservation, then there will always be conflict.

How can we help?

Help raise awareness by sharing postings on social media Educate your friends and family, and if possible take our education campaign into your local schools. Report ALL illegal wildlife crime via the correct channels.

Thank you very much to you Zoe and your team for being such an inspiration, for saving these fragile victims, and for being on the front line tackling these poachers head-on.

To read more about Saving The Survivors or to make a donation go to:

For any queries on the education program, you can contact Laurian McLaren from STS, or Jane Acott from W4W.