On the morning of Wednesday, 28th January 2015 the DSWT/KWS Mara Mobile Veterinary Unit received a distress call from the management of the Mara Conservancy that one of their patrol teams had come across a young elephant calf with a tight cable snare round its front left leg.
We immediately swung into action by mobilizing all that we needed for the treatment. We knew that a calf is always fiercely protected by the family and it would be a tall order attending to it but it was inevitable and very important that we save the life of this young baby and relieve it from unspeakable agony.
It took a two hours drive to get to where the calf and mother were feeding in the hot tropical sun. Other big elephant families were also nearby grazing. Immediately we noticed that the calf had lots of difficulty walking and the mother was way ahead and would from time to time go back to gather up her baby.
The team decided to dart the calf first and try pushing the mother away when the anesthesia took effect in order to avoid the risk of the mother’s milk drying up and again risking the young elephant calf. A dart was quickly prepared and the calf approached and darted from the vehicle. After that we waited for the drug to take effect. After about nine minutes he knelt down pressing his trunk against the ground and the mother came and stood beside him. All efforts to push her away were fruitless and time here was of the essence otherwise the calf would suffocate.
Making the last ditch effort to scare her off, she finally obliged but not before putting her slender and sharp tusks into the vehicles front grills. This left a hole on the plastic bumper. The heavy steel custom-made bumper saved the car from serious damage. When she moved off, the team members alighted and the calf was turned and laid down laterally. This revealed a big snare wound all around the limb but the snare itself was missing. The wound was cleaned with copious amounts of water and de-bribed with hydrogen peroxide. After extensive cleaning and medication the wound was covered with green clay which has very good antibiotic properties and also helps in keeping flies and any further infection at bay. Also a long acting antibiotic injection was administered to prevent further infection.
After all the treatments, the antidote was administered through the ear vein and after two minutes the calf was on its feet and the mother came rushing. We encountered another problem because the two were running in different directions but with the use of the vehicle again we herded the calf in the direction of the mother and in a short while the mother and calf met announcing their union with a joyful trumpet.
The Mara Vet unit takes this opportunity to thank The Minara Foundation for their steadfast financial support.
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Felix Micheni - Mara Vet Unit