It was a Friday afternoon and a call came in to the Mara vet unit of an elephant calf spotted earlier that morning by tourists on a game drive on the Sand River which falls on the border of the Masai Mara and Serengeti conservation areas.
The Unit therefore hurriedly prepared all that would be required and set out to the area to look for the calf that was said to be in a large family of approximately twenty plus elephants. In the Sand River area we encountered big herds of elephants and our candidate could not be located and just as we were almost giving up, one of the vet unit members spotted this baby ele that was dragging the left hind leg and with the use of a pair of binoculars, one could clearly see the shiny and deadly piece of metal that had cut deep into the flesh of this young elephant.
The tranquilizers were quickly prepared for both the mother and the calf and loaded onto the darting gun. It was by sheer luck because this herd was at the border of Kenya and Tanzania and was almost crossing and considering that elephants unlike humans don’t carry passports, we would probably have never saved this young and suffering elephant ! The calf, who we approximated to be about eighteen months old was successfully darted and went recumbent ten minutes later and his loving and protective mother stood over him and would frantically try to lift him up using her fore legs, trunk and even tusks but in vain. We managed to drive the rest of the family members away and were left with the Mother who was also darted but unfortunately the first dart failed to discharge and another had to be quickly prepared and successfully darted. Before she became completely drugged she was very agitated and we were certain she would attack the vet car but fortunately she did not because probably her uncanny instincts could tell her that we meant no ill to either her or her calf and therefore she spared us. We nudged her to take a few steps back and she obliged and within a few minutes later she also went down.
We therefore cut off the wire using a wire Cutter, cleaned the wound thoroughly with Hydrogen peroxide and Iodine and sprayed with an antibiotic spray. We also added some green clay to the wound because of its very good healing qualities to hasten the healing.
When all the treatments were finished and everyone was satisfied we had done the best two doses of reversal drug were simultaneously administered through an ear vein and mother and calf got up and walked down to the Sand River lugga where the other family members were watching the proceedings from.
These transboundary elephants have been under a lot of pressure from illegal poachers and licensed hunters in Tanzania and a lot needs to be done to secure their lives and habitats too for future generations. We thank all our supporters for their invaluable support without which our work would be impossible.
Felix Micheni- Mara Vet Unit