On the 28th June an elephant cow was seen at the Ithumba stockades with a large swelling on her right side stretching down to her abdomen. She was easily identified because she had only one very long straight tusk and was with a calf. Head Keeper Benjamin notified DSWT’s aerial unit and a plan was set in motion.
The Trust’s yellow Super Cub arrived early the next morning to begin the search. Fortunately, after only fifteen minutes, a herd of nine elephants was located and among them was the cow with that single, unmistakeable tusk. GPS coordinates were taken and the Super Cub took off to pick up one of the DSWT/KWS mobile vets, Dr. Njoroge, currently located in Amboseli National Park.
Once in Ithumba, the vet began to prepare his equipment while the pilot searched again for the elephant which had at this point moved to the other side of the stockade and been joined by more than five additional elephants. The team was now concerned that it would be difficult and potentially dangerous to separate her from the rest of the herd. As a contingency, the DSWT’s helicopter pilot was raised by radio and asked to be on standby in case it was necessary to use the chopper to separate the herd. So with everyone in place the vehicle on the ground moved towards the last location of the herd and then received a call from the stockades that they had returned to drink.
With the elephant in an open space, the vehicle moved in quickly, Dr. Njoroge in the passenger seat with his dart gun loaded. Sensing something was wrong the herd immediately made a move for the thick Commiphora bush that surrounds the stockades so the vehicle made quick pursuit and the vet was able to fire the shot as the elephant began to disappear behind a wall of tangled bush. Now that she was darted, the car stopped its pursuit and the elephants slowed down their retreat and immediately began to relax. Within 10 minutes the anaesthesia took affect and the elephant collapsed.
The ground team set off immediately on foot to the location and were able to keep back the rest of the herd and allow the vet time to move in and begin his work. Upon arriving at the scene it became evident that her breathing was restricted. As she fell, the top of her trunk had lodged against a small tree, so as Dr. Njoroge began treating the wound, the tree was hurriedly cut down and moved out of the way to clear the air passage.
Fortunately, the wound had been discovered early and the infection was not far advanced. Incisions were made and a few kilos of necrotic flesh was removed before the culprit was discovered: a poisoned arrow. Once cleaned and packed with green clay, she was given a dose of long-lasting antibiotic and painkiller and administered with an antidote for the anaesthetic. Short moments later she was on her feet and rushing to reunite with her calf and her herd. It is hoped that in the coming weeks she will make a reappearance at the stockade so that she can be checked on, but the vet is confident that she will make a fast recovery.