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 Stories from the Wild- Mara Vet Unit encounters a poisoned elephant bull - 3/21/2011
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On the morning of 21st March, a telephone call came in to the Mara Mobile Vet Unit about an elephant that was lying down in the bushes of the Olare Orok Conservancy that borders the world famous Masai Mara National Reserve.
  We therefore organized ourselves quickly and drove there to check what was happening. Along the way we were joined by the Conservancy rangers who guided us through to where the elephant was. On arrival we found the huge bull with quite impressive tusks on the ground and no matter the amount of nudging, he couldn’t stand up. He could only roll on the ground in an effort to stand.

The bull tries to stand but cannot  The bull too weak to stand had been lying in the same place for several days

   We were informed that some Masai herdsmen had stumbled on the elephant that was lying down and frantically trying to stand up but in vain. The struggle and trampling around was evident enough that his friends and family were also trying to help him to his feet and protect him from predators, a clear indication of the compassion these giant creatures have for each other. It was also evident enough that he had been on the ground for several days and all around was Hyena spoor. According to the Masai herdsmen, for several nights they could hear elephant rumblings around the area from their Manyattas which are several hundred yards away.

The tracks of the other elephant who tried to help and protect the bull  The bull has impressive tusks, which is why he was targeted

The bull cannot stand up

   From all that we had gathered this Bull was under day and night surveillance by his mates otherwise Hyenas would have taken advantage of his condition to maul him while he was on the ground.
Through investigations revealed a wound on the left upper shoulder that was oozing with pus and we all highly suspected it had been caused by a lethal poised arrow. The poison was slowly weakening the animal completely immobilizing it and it was the most probable reason why he could not gather enough energy to stand up. The traditional ingredients for making these arrow poisons are not well documented and some cause blood clotting, disrupt the systematic coordination of the central nervous system or even cause the wasting of the muscles.

The emaciated bull with a poison arrow wound on the shoulder  The emaciated bull with a poison arrow wound on the shoulder

   The elephant’s body condition had also seriously deteriorated and there was little or no chance of survival for this bull. It was a pity he had to be put down to rest to ease the pain and suffering he had undergone in the hands of men who most probably were only after his impressive tusks for game trophies. This case and others highlight the serious threat that faces these animals and is a wake up call for everyone to stand up and speak and work to secure them before it’s too late. It’s never too early or too late, we can still make our individual contribution to secure the nature.
 Micheni Felix- Mara Vet Unit

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