We have seen snares fell full-grown elephants and tiny calves. A simple wire loop may look innocuous enough, but they have a deadly, indiscriminate power. This time, the victim was a teenager — a bull on the cusp of adulthood.
On 6th February, we received an urgent report from Wildlife Works: Amidst a small family herd, they spotted a young bull with a thick snare encircling his right hind leg. There didn’t appear to be an injury, but it was wrapped taut, spelling impending doom.
While the SWT/KWS Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit drove to the scene, the SWT helicopter mobilised from our Kaluku Field Headquarters. Everyone convened on-site and formulated a plan. The helicopter took flight with KWS vet Dr Limo, in order to shepherd the patient away from his herd and dart him from the air.
As soon as the dart landed, the ground team sprung into action. The bull succumbed to the anaesthetic on his haunches, but one gentle push later, the team had moved him into position. The snare was a thick cable, requiring heavy duty wire cutters to slice through it. Fortunately, it had not yet caused an injury and was easily removed.
After the snare was cut clear, the team administered the anaesthetic reversal and waited for the bull to get back to his feet. He swung to his feet and, with a shake of his head, walked off into the bush to reunite with his family.
This snare was a cautionary tale. Left untended, it could have spelled out a slow, agonising death for this young elephant. We are all-too-familiar with the heartbreaking trajectory of a snare: Over time, it would have continued to tighten, noose-like, around his leg. This would have created a grave injury, turning each step into torture. Infections and limited mobility have lethal consequences for elephants of any age.
But fortunately, this bull’s story had a different ending. Because of a keen sighting by Wildlife Works and rapid response from the team, he survived a brush with death with nary a scratch. Now, he has his whole life ahead of him. Perhaps someday, many years from now, we will see him presiding over the plains of Tsavo.