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 A Tsavo Bull's Remarkable Recovery - 11/9/2013
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With all three of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s mobile veterinary units working at full force in the field in an effort to save as many injured wild animals as possible, especially the elephant and rhino victims of poaching, it is always a great pleasure and incredibly heart-warming to reunite with one of the patients treated, especially when their life-threatening wounds have healed so completely.

In this case, Dr. Poghon of the Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit treated an urgent case on the 31st of July.  This young bull had been reported nearly three weeks earlier with a cable snare around his foot, yet with continuous aerial surveillance and the daily efforts of the DSWT ground patrol teams, as well as the Tsavo Veterinary unit being on site the bull eluded everyone in the dense comiphera bush.

DSWT plane and helicopter at the airstrip in Tsavo  Helicopter taking off

So for as long as a month this young bull struggled with his horrific injury.  He had obviously struggled and strained so hard against the winch snare when he was first trapped that he broke free from the tree that was imprisoning him, yet a brutal infected cut remained with the snapped cable wire caught deep against the bone.

Finally, along the northern bank of the Athi River, the bull was sighted again, painfully soothing his wounded leg in the cool waters of the river.  Although sighted late in the evening a report was immediately made to the Dr. Poghon, who arranged to fly up from Voi to Kaluku in a KWS aircraft early the next morning.  

ground teams cross the Athi River  the teams wait GPS coordinates from the air

As soon as the sun began to rise the following morning, Nick Trent, the DSWT’s Field Pilot was up in the air combing the area where the bull was last seen, finding him not far from where he was last spotted close to his herd but now away from the river in the shadow of the Yatta Plateau in dense bush once more.    A helicopter had to be deployed for this case as the elephant was too difficult to access by road as well as because it was still with its herd, as it would have been difficult to separate the patient from his extended family in such dense bush without the use of aerial assistance. 

From the helicopter, alongside the pilot and Nick who was guiding the aircraft to the correct location, the vet successfully darted the bull, which went down in less than ten minutes whilst the helicopter landed on a rock kopje nearby.  The team went in on foot to the site where the elephant lay down with the extra support of the ground teams who were guided in using GPS coordinates. 

teams head to the elephant on foot  the bull is tranquilsed

The snare wound was deep and the flesh had grown around the cable, making it at first appear as if there was no wire remaining.  But after cutting deep into the flesh the winch cable was located and pulled away from the flesh and bone.  The heavily infected wound was cleaned and treated.  Long-lasting anti-biotic was given and green clay packed into the wound to protect it from further infection before the bull was revived .   With a lot less discomfort the bull slowly wandered away towards the safety of his herd which was still nearby whilst the whole team hoped for the best for this beautiful elephant.

treating the wound  cable cutters are needed

snare removed

As with most cases, the DSWT aerial surveillance unit and anti-poaching teams continue to monitor any patients, keeping a close eye on their injuries should repeat treatment be necessary.  Thankfully it wasn’t long before this bull elephant was sighted by the DSWT field teams, only a week after his treatment.  It was reported that the bull was no longer limping and was keeping up with his herd without trouble, which is a hugely successful result.

Then on the 27th of October 2013, the DSWT field unit spotted him once again after nearly 3 months since his treatment.  Remarkably this elephant was walking perfectly normally crossing the Athi River.  He was easily identified by the thick healed scar circling his leg, where the vet had removed the wire snare.  What an absolute pleasure to see this bull in wonderful health with his herd, enjoying a wild natural life as he deserves, having once been close to death.

Crossing the river with his herd  the bull three months later

All our mobile veterinary units and the SkyVets initiative need your support, please help however you can https://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/is/donate_now.asp


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