Rescuing Tim - elephant extraction on a monumental scale

Published on the 5th of December, 2018

Tim is one of Kenya’s most iconic elephants, but he certainly does like to live life dangerously. Monday was no exception, when he was discovered by Big Life in an extremely compromised situation in the middle of Kimana swamp - stuck fast in mud.

Immediately the DSWT/KWS Mobile Veterinary Units were called to the scene to assist Big Life teams, while in Nairobi the DSWT got to work organising the stitching together of hundreds of meters of heavy duty webbed straps from our stores, to create extra-long straps, which we sent to the scene in a chartered plane.

Trapped in the mud, only able to move his head and trunk, Tim was understandably stressed by his predicament, and also by all the humans present, as there was no way he could know all the people on the scene were there to help him, especially given his past run-ins with farmers. On top of this, his own attempts to extract himself had tired him, while the pressure of the earth on his body impacted his breathing, and all in the heat of the day. Tim’s fate rested in the hands of his would be human rescuers.

Those on the ground worked out ingenious ways to overcome this complex issue. First off breaking a hole in an agricultural furrow close to Tim to divert the flowing water towards him and moisten the area, adding some buoyancy to the situation. Then came another challenge, placing the straps under Tim’s head that would be essential in pulling him free. This was achieved, and while the first few efforts to extract this huge bull elephant only managed to move him a fraction, persistence and horsepower paid off, and finally, with the aid of Big Life and DSWT Land cruisers, and a KWS tractor, all pulling in a synchronized fashion, Tim was finally free.

Having been trapped for hours, he was exhausted, but after some time he rose to his great height, to the jubilation of all round. Big Life Rangers followed Tim as he slowly headed off, monitoring him late into the night to check he was showing no ill signs from his eventful day.

The next day (yesterday), the DSWT/KWS Amboseli Mobile Veterinary Unit returned to check on him and, of course, he was behaving as if nothing was amiss at all!!

On two separate occasions the DSWT/KWS Amboseli Mobile Veterinary Unit has treated him for spear injuries, so Tim is pushing the boundaries, but he is not short of guardians who work hard to keep him safe. Special thanks to Big Life for finding him and helping coordinate ground operations, to the two DSWT/KWS Veterinary Units on-site whose brave team had the unenviable task of getting the straps under Tim, to Boskovic Air-charters who dispatched a Cessna caravan from Nairobi to the scene with the webbing straps for a much-reduced rate and to East African Canvas, who dropped everything in order to sew together hundreds of meters of webbing straps so that we could have huge lengths available for the task at hand - and most of all to our donors who enable us to undertake rescues like this.

Tim is a monument, a magnificent example of a truly majestic African Elephant, and we are thrilled to have played a part in the solution that resulted in this happy ending, because it so easily could have been a different outcome.