When they found her, she had been shot in the hoof by poachers and left to die. But Goose the black rhino, and the South African medical team determined to nurse her back to health, aren’t giving up so easily.

Goose was attacked by poachers and was nearly dead when she was brought to veterinarians at Kruger National Park. Catherine Dreyer, a monitoring co-ordinator there, said that Goose’s foot was destroyed by the poachers, and had to be wrapped in a thick cast.

“Every bone is broken in that foot,” Dreyer said. Pointing to a photo of the injury, she added that Goose “had no sole, and this pink part is where there was a piece of bone protruding.”

As Goose is an 800 kilo rhino, her cast wears out quick. But, for the same reasons, replacing her cast is no simple feat.

Every few weeks, a complicated process begins.

Her caretakers tranquilize her, and wait for her to fall asleep. Once she’s passed out, it takes a group effort to roll her onto her back and get at the cast.

The old cast is cut off with a circular hand saw. Then, the process starts to replace it, working quickly to get the job done before she wakes up.

Layers of bandages go on first. Then a piece of elephant pelt is wrapped around for binding. The final coat is made of fiberglass, for added strength.

It’s a unique process. Veterinarian Johan Marais says that an undertaking like this “has never been done.”

“So it’s quite important for me as a veterinarian to actually find out what is possible (in terms of treatment) in a one or two ton animal.”

Her caretakers include a student vet from Singapore, who says the experience of taking care of Goose is “something that I’ll probably carry with me for the rest of my life.”

Black rhinos are considered critically endangered, according to the World Wildlife Fund, which says there are between 5,000 and 5,500 in the wild today. That’s a huge increase from the early 1990s when the population was down to less than 2,500, but black rhinos are still threatened daily by poachers.

The species is prized and hunted for their horns, which can be sold for millions of dollars on the black market.

As a female, Goose is even more important to scientists concerned with boosting rhino numbers, so the fight to keep her alive is critical.