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 Surviving Poisoned Arrows in Ithumba - 10/22/2012
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On the 6th October the DSWT keepers sighted a big bull, accompanied by two wild elephants at the Ithumba mudbath, who had a severe wound on his back leg as a result of being shot with a poisoned arrow. Immediately the keepers reported this to KWS, whilst requesting aerial support from the DSWT aircraft to come and locate the elephant which had since disappeared back into the bush. That afternoon the DSWT SuperCub located the elephant about 1km from the mudbath.

The aerial unit sights the wounded elephant  The ground vet team prepares for action

The ground team are directed over the radio from the air  Ithumba Team track the wounded elephant

The following morning the aircraft again located the wounded bull alone about 7km from the mudbath, having been left behind by his two friends. The decision was made to make arrangements for the vet from Voi to be taken to Ithumba in order to treat the elephant and by 9am the next morning after a short search, the bull elephant was located from the air and work could begin. Following a GPS coordinate taken from the air, the Ithumba de-snaring team, vet Dr. Poghon and three KWS rangers walked into the thick bush where the bull was resting in the shade. Water and veterinary supplies had to be carried through the bush by the DSWT team, who waited 200m from the elephant. Dr. Poghon and two KWS rangers continued forward to within 50m of the elephant, but due to the thick bush a dart could not be fired. Suddenly the big bull sensed that there were people around and he moved off, past the waiting antipoaching team who followed him for a while but lost him in the bush. A new plan in place, the ground team drove to where the elephant had headed, taking a track into the bush downwind of where he was thought to be. The DSWT plane was quickly airborne and searching for the bull. Half an hour later, after intense searching, the bull was once again located under a shady tree, about 1km from where the car was waiting. Through radio contact, it was decided that the plane would push the elephant closer to the road, in order to get him out of the thick bush and allowing the team and vehicle better access. With water and veterinary supplies the team once again ventured to the GPS point taken by the airplane flying overhead. The plane guided the team in quickly where the vet and two KWS rangers got within 30m of the bull and darted him successfully. The bull initially charged off, away from the direction of the vet and rangers, but soon changed his mind, the dart obviously reminding him of the arrow incident a few days earlier. He spun around and charged the three men crouching in the bush nearby. As they scattered the bull focused in on one KWS ranger who ran through the bush. The elephant was closing fast, but with a warning shot fired into the air he changed direction away from the ranger and within minutes was down from the tranquiliser.

The vet begins work  The poison arrow wound

Working quickly

The wound  Keeping the elephant cool and comfortable

The Vet examines the wound  Preparing for treatment

Treating the elephant immediately the team cleaned up three additional wounds and began work on the main arrow shot wound on the back leg, which was attended to quickly by the vet as water was poured over the ears of the bull to keep him cool. Two arrowheads were removed from deep inside the wound, whilst and the wound cleaned, antibiotics administered, and with time running out as the bull began to stir as the team quickly collected up all the equipment and the vet applied a small syringe of the revival drug into the ear of the bull, causing a reaction within minutes with the bull getting back on his feet and quietly slipping back into the bush to live another day. He will be monitored closely over the next few days, but always hopeful the vet and the team who treated him believe his chances of recovery are very good.    

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