On 15th January 2020, the SWT/KWS Canine Unit spotted an injured elephant in the Tsavo Triangle of Tsavo East National Park. They first noticed the very large bull standing despondent in the shade of a tall tree but upon closer inspection, their fears were confirmed when they noticed what appeared to be a large infected abscess on the bull’s abdomen. He had been shot by a poacher's poisoned arrow.
Unable to arrange for the elephant’s treatment that same day, due to the late hour and unavailability of Dr. Poghon the SWT/KWS Vet who was on leave, it was agreed that we mobilize the SWT/KWS Sky Vet Unit for the following day to take care of this magnificent animal. The SWT Super Cub performed an evening patrol to keep track of the bull's position so that the same could be repeated at dawn the following day. Arrangements in the meantime were made for KWS vet Dr. Domnic Mijele who heads the SWT/KWS Mount Kenya Vet Unit to be flown down from Nanyuki to carry out the treatment the next morning.
At first light, our Super Cub set out once again to locate the patient so that the operation could get underway, and thankfully after a relatively short search albeit in challenging conditions — low cloud and poor visibility — the bull was once again sighted, this time in the company of another bull.
The plan for the vet to be ferried from Nanyuki by air to the SWT’s Kaluku field HQ was green lit, and everything required for the operation was positioned in the meantime, along with additional helping hands, straps, water and a four wheel drive vehicle to turn him over in case he fell on the side of his injury.
Once Dr. Mijele arrived at Kaluku he climbed into the Trust's helicopter and flew to the site where the ground teams were on standby a safe distance away from the injured bull.
The operation itself was executed quickly and without incident, the elephant first being darted from the air and then very serendipitous walking directly towards the ground team before coming to a stop within eyesight of the vehicle and collapsing. He was rolled over with the help of the vehicle so that the vet could quickly get to work cleaning his nasty injury, which although not deep enough to have punctured his gut wall, due to the poison had become severely infected and left untreated posed a serious risk to his life. His injury was cleaned thoroughly and long-lasting antibiotics and anti inflammatory drugs administered before he was revived. He rose to his feet, regal and magnificent and then walked off back into the bush. The team had their hard work rewarded in the knowledge that this beautiful creature will hopefully make a full recovery thanks to his timely treatment, and the generous financial support that makes Sky Vet possible.