It was on Monday 3rd May 2010 in the evening when a call came in to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s Mara Mobile Veterinary Unit from the managers of Olare Orok Conservancy, Rob and Sarah, about an elephant cow within the conservancy with a badly injured back leg. Since it was late in the evening, we all agreed to visit early the following morning to assess the nature and extent of the injury and duly attend to it.
Early the following day on Tuesday morning we assembled all that we would need for the operation and set out to the Conservancy. Since the Manager knew we would be coming, he and his wife Sarah had set out earlier that morning and located the elephant who was quietly browsing. That made it easier for us considering that it takes a lot of time to locate an elephant that had last been sighted 24hrs earlier.
We drove to straight to the location where the Elephant was and on close observation, we realized that the whole rear right leg from the hipbone down to the toes was soaking in pus and she could hardly walk a few meters at a time. The vet prepared the tranquilizing dart, darted the elephant successfully on the left rump and after 7 minutes she went down. What astonished everyone who was present was the extent of the injury on the elephant, because all the muscles and skin on that leg were falling off. The stench emanating from the wound too was unbearable and everyone was skeptical whether she would make it at all and some even suggested humane euthanasia to end her pain and suffering. But a few of us who have seen worse wounds on elephants managed to convince our colleagues that it was important to give her a chance of life once more. After consultations amongst us everybody agreed it best to give her the best and most comprehensive treatment followed by close monitoring by Rob and Sarah until the wounds heal if they would.
After the wound was thoroughly cleaned and all the other drugs administered she was revived from the tranquilizers and our greatest happiness was she did manage to stand up on her own. We were initially worried that she would need our assistance in order to get back to her feet.
After the treatment, the stench subsided but still it was able to attract a pack of hyenas who were bent on turning the weak elephant into their meal but then Rob and Sarah came in handy because they kept her company most of the time during which she would spot their vehicle and immediately lie down to sleep for several hours without having to worry about the hyenas because they would secure her by chasing them away.
After exactly twenty one days, we went back again, tranquilized her and repeated the treatment. But this time round she looked stronger, had moved further up the hill where there was more food and on the upper part of the wound, it had dried up and was healing quite well. It was enocouraging for all who had seen the initial wound and condition of the elephant seeing how she looked this time round.
During the second round treatment, we also used lots of the green clay powder to cover the wound with after all the other treatments were administered. This time round she stood up pretty fast after the reversal drug was administered. She had been darted on the left hand side and went down on the same side and the dart could only be taken off her body if she was standing. One of the rangers working with the unit courageously stayed on the rear and when the elephant was up on her feet, he was able to retrieve the dart and safely walk to the car which was right behind her. She was just standing there looking all satisfied with what we had done to her and not at all bothered to chase us away. She is one of the calmest elephants we have come across in the wild and we were all so impressed with her and wished her quick recovery. She is a strong willed elephant who would make a very dependable matriarch that would be of great advantage to her family.
I once again take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you who have supported this important unit in any way for in all those little ways you have contributed to saving many animals in pain and in need of help.
I salute you all, thank you.
Micheni Felix- Mara Vet unit.