A report of a big bull elephant with a wound on his left flank was received on the afternoon of July 7th 2013 sighted by one of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trusts Anti-Poaching Units operating in the Tsavo Conservation Area. On July 8th the DSWTs low-level flying aerial surveillance plane searched the area where the elephant had been last seen, yet to no avail. A few days later on July 15th the ground team sighted the elephant again from a hill top. The plane was airborne as soon as possible but again the elephant could not be found in the thick thorn-bush, which was inaccessible by vehicle. On the evening of July 17th, ten days after the elephants first sighting, he was finally spotted again from the air. The ground team was immediately dispatched to locate him on the ground.
Early on July 18th the DSWT aircraft was airborne again and was able to quickly locate the big bull, thankfully he had not moved a great distance. The DSWT ground team was directed in to monitor him while the Sky Vets Program immediately kicked into action deploying a veterinary officer.
That day a Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) vet was en-route by helicopter from Nairobi and was on site just over one hour later. During a ground discussion on strategy between the pilots, the KWS vet and the DSWT ground team, a sudden and unexpected call came in from the KWS that a second injured bull elephant had been sighted very nearby. A quick decision was reached that the vet would try to treat both elephants in the same day.
After the KWS vet had prepared two darts, the DSWTs Super Cub and the Sky Vets helicopter were airborne. There were five big bulls in the area making it a challenge to know which one the first patient was. The helicopter checked on each one and after deciding which one was the target bull, the ground team was called in to take a closer look at him. From the ground they confirmed he was the one. The helicopter moved in quickly and the big bull was darted and slowly pushed towards open ground, knowing that there was about ten minutes until the drug was to take effect.
The bull went down next to an open patch in the bush allowing the ground team to be quickly onsite. A few seconds later the helicopter landed nearby and the vet went to work. The first job was to turn the big animal over as he had fallen on the side of the wound. Ropes were attached to his legs and the vehicle pulled him over. The entire team took up their roles, whilst the KWS vet treated the wounds. Within half an hour the wake up drug was administered and immediately the bull was up and on his feet. After a successful treatment the bull slowly wandered off to continue his day.
Meanwhile the ground team had driven about ten kilometres to the location of the second bull which the Super Cub had already located. The helicopter came in low, confirmed he was the right target by observing a large wound on his left rear flank, so the vet fired off his dart. The elephant was expertly guided towards a road, where ten minutes later he went down on the right side.
Again the ground team was onsite within a minute, administering water to the big bulls ear to cool him down. The vet was onside shortly afterwards as the helicopter landed on the road nearby. The wound was caused by a poisoned arrow and was fairly severe. All hands played a role in quickly administering drugs and cleaning up the wound before waking the big bull up to go on to live a another day.
Anyone can help to support either our Anti-Poaching Units or the Mobile Veterinary Units which work in unison to protect Kenya's elephant and wildlife by donating through our website https://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/is/donate_now.asp