On the morning of Saturday 23rd October 2010, just after conclusion of the Wildebeest collaring in the Amboseli and Nairobi National park dispersal areas, the Mara vet unit received a distress call from Mara Triangle management about an elephant calf that was spotted dragging a wire snare on its front left leg.We immediately departed from Nairobi for the 250 km journey and arrived in our camp that evening. We could not make it to where the calf was that same day since it was late in the evening and we would need to cover another 90km journey. We therefore decided to attend to it early the following morning which was a Sunday. When we arrived there, she was in a family of about fifteen elephants.
All along as the other family members foraged, the snared calf was busy at a mud hole smearing the wound with mud to probably repel flies and ease the agonizing pain she was undergoing. From our approximation she was two years old and still under the care of her loving mother who was always stopping and turning to check her baby’s wellbeing.
We checked and counterchecked to make sure everything was in place before we drove in and darted the calf first. The family was startled and after a few minutes the drug started taking effect and at that point the Mother too was darted. Darting the mother was necessitated by the fact that elephant mothers are very protective when it comes to their babies and they will shield and protect them even if that means losing their lives.
We had mobilized about six vehicles to help in the operation and they all came in handy in pushing the rest of family members aside to give us some room to attend to the calf. The plan worked well though not without a fight by the cow that chased one of the vehicles for 500metres by which time she got drugged and went down. The rest of the family members heeded our ‘request’ to keep a distance since they all congregated a distance away looking at us and probably able to understand that we were out to help one of their own who was in great pain and needed our veterinary help more than anything else at that particular point in time.
The wound was thoroughly cleaned using 10% Hydrogen Peroxide, Tincture of Iodine and finally sprayed using a tetracycline spray. Long acting antibiotic was also administered intramuscularly to cushion the calf from any opportunistic bacterial infections through the wound.After all the treatments were administered, the calf and its mother were revived from anesthesia almost simultaneously and our greatest joy came after witnessing their re-union by greeting each other with their trunks. The calf could be heard making sounds to the mother maybe confirming that we had not hurt her in any way and only removed the wire snare around her leg which was hurting terribly then.
At the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust our greatest joy is to rescue and see orphaned elephant calves through to their maturity and final reintegration back to the wild. But it is even a greater joy for us to treat those calves right in wild, in the vicinity of their loving family members and leave them in their able, loving and caring hands. And in this particular case, we were all left happily satisfied that we had saved a precious young elephant whose short life was certainly in great danger of being cut short by a silent, slow and painful wire.
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust's Mara vet unit takes this opportunity to say BIG thumbs up for the invaluable support we have received from many people throughout the world, but particularly to the Amara Foundation for funding this Unit. Thank you all.
Micheni Felix - Mara Vet unit.