On 16th April we received a grave report from the Shimba Hills: An elephant had been spotted on the KWS airstrip with a cable snare looped taut around her front left leg, leaving a ghastly wound that cut to the bone. She was alone, obviously so incapacitated that she had fallen away from her herd.
We immediately mobilised a ‘Sky Vet’ treatment. Our Cessna 206 took off from Kaluku at 1.30pm, flying to Voi where KWS vet Dr. Poghon was waiting. Within half an hour, the plane was en route to the Shimba Hills National Reserve, which is located near the south coast of Kenya. When they landed, KWS rangers, scouts, and the owners of a private property on the ridgeline were waiting on the airstrip to meet the team.
The snared elephant had been last sighted at 6.00am that morning. Compromised by such a severe injury, it was unlikely that she had moved far. The ground teams fanned out in two groups to track her down, eventually finding her sheltering amidst the thick undergrowth. This was Dr Poghon’s cue to move in and dart the patient, but it was extremely challenging due to the dense bush. At last, a fleeting opportunity presented itself and the vet successfully landed the tranquiliser dart.
As soon as the elephant succumbed to the anaesthetic, the team commenced treatment. The snare was particularly brutal, made of the same type of wire cable that you would find on a heavy duty winch. It was wrapped around the leg in an impossibly tight bind, forcing the team to coax it loose before they could even access it with bolt cutters. After the snare was fully removed, they cleaned the wound and administered painkillers, anti-inflammatories and antibiotics.
About 30 minutes after treatment began, the patient was back on her feet. We can only imagine how relieved she must have felt to be free of the wire trap. She limped off into the Shimba Hills — on a mission, no doubt, to reunite with her herd. Given the gravity of her injury, the elephant will likely need a follow-up treatment, but local teams will continue to update us on her condition.