On the 6th of November a tour operator reported seeing an elephant with what looked like a wound to the front right leg in the Sala area. The DSWT Tsavo Vet Unit was alerted and waited on standby until the specific location of the elephant was reported. Vague reports continued to come in about the elephant, which was stuck in deep mud, yet no reports could clearly verify the location. The following day, early in the morning, the DSWT aircraft was deployed to locate the elephant from the air. Initially nothing could be seen and after landing at several tented camps in the area there was still no further information. Yet one last check of a remote waterhole proved successful and in the middle of the water laid a lone elephant, almost fully submerged. The elephant had obviously fallen in a waterhole, only managing to breath through its trunk.
Immediately the mobile DSWT Vet Unit was on its way and half an hour later they met with a KWS team and headed to the waterhole, finding the elephant still in the middle of the water, with its head still fully submerged. At this point it was not clear if the animal was still alive. They had a challenge on their hands with how best to proceed but action had to be taken urgently.
One of the KWS rangers volunteered to go in and see whether the elephant was indeed still alive. He pulled its tail and pulled harder and suddenly the sleeping giant erupted out of the water sending the 'tail puller' into rapid retreat. Miraculously the elephant rose to its feet, which was a huge relief as no treatment could have been given to it while it lay in the water. Slowly the KWS team 'herded' it out of the waterhole, whilst it tried to charge at the rescue teams, but with its front leg in such a bad way it could do no more than a few frustrated limps.
Eventually it stood far enough away from the water - if the elephant was darted and returned to the water it would have been a disaster. The DSWT vet prepared his dart and quietly crept up behind the animal, and fired the tranquilizer into its left flank. Within five minutes the animal crumpled to the ground and work began. A bush obstructing its breathing had to be removed first, whilst one person was given the duty of cooling the elephant with water. Others collected a tree stump on which to prop the injured leg, whilst the vet went to work, sweating in the heat, being assisted by the KWS team. It was now mid-afternoon and intensely hot.
A deep single wound on the ankle which is believed to have been caused by a poisoned arrow, was soon cleaned out and treated. This took about twenty minutes whilst the elephant snored in deep sleep. Antibiotics were injected into the muscle tissue before another small injection into a vein in the ear was given to finally revive the patient. Within minutes he struggled to get up but with a bit of persuasion he finally rose to his feet and stood motionless accessing the situation. His trunk sniffed his ankle, wondering what the new feelings were and the foreign smells of the medication. Finally he stared at the team of onlookers in an almost thankful way and turned to hobble off into the bush.
He will be monitored over the next few days and should he continue to struggle, a follow-up treatment will be carried out, but hopefully he will soon return to health, put weight back on his foot and carry on to wander the plains of Tsavo.
Through your support and the support of Vier Pfoten the treatment of this elephant was made possible. The DSWT is hugely grateful and hopes that through your continued support more lives can be saved. https://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/is/donate_now.asp