The rescue of Luggard

Published on the 9th of January, 2017

This little calf, when just a few months old had an extremely traumatic beginning, suffering two bullet wounds, one to his left foot and another shattering his right leg just above the knee joint

This little calf, when just a few months old had an extremely traumatic beginning, suffering two bullet wounds, one to his left foot and another shattering his right leg just above the knee joint. He was first sighted by a Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Pilot on the 31st March 2016, while on an anti-poaching patrol over Tsavo East National Park.

He was spotted near the Galana river, still in the company of his herd, but it was evident then that his leg was more than likely broken, and that his injury was a week or two old judging by the swelling and infection. He was in an extremely inaccessible area and struggling to keep up with his herd, and without intervention he would surely die.

With the assistance of KWS, the SWT mobilised Sky Vet with a helicopter in order to reach and treat the baby. KWS Veterinary Officer Fred Olianga was with the team to assess the wounds, and the decision was made to rescue the calf as it was clear that he needed intensive treatment to live, and the nature of his wound was such that in a wild situation, he would be left behind. Already the little calf was a good distance behind the herd when the Sky Vet team arrived on site.

After the initial rescue the baby was held at the KWS rhino field base at Lugards until the SWT Keepers arrived on the scene, landing on close by on a bush airstrip. With the Keepers now on the ground the calf was swiftly prepared for the flight and taken to the airfield in the back of a land-cruiser before being airlifted in a Cessna Caravan aircraft to Nairobi.

Once at the Nursery, but before he was unstrapped and lifted to his feet, an X-ray machine was prepared and an x-ray was taken so that we could better assess the extent of his injuries to know the best way forward.

What was revealed was that his femur was shattered just above the knee, with bone splinters still evident, whilst a bullet had also gone through his left foot. How he was going to heal from such severe injuries remained unknown, as any possibility of pinning the leg was not possible given the extent of override of the bone and contraction of the muscles. No one knew what the future would hold for this little brave boy.

We called this little bull Luggard after the area where he was rescued, and all who met him marveled at his determination and feisty spirit, as despite his injury, his pain, and the incomprehensible reason one so young would be targeted this way, how in the face of such suffering, such loss, he remained so positive was inspiring. We guessed him to be approximately five months old.

His 'fight' further fuelled the SWT team's resolve to do all possible to save Luggard, understanding it would be a long and hard journey ahead. It began with intensive medication for the infection, and the regular cleaning of his wounds, but as the weeks passed he became increasingly distressed at being incarcerated in a stockade. He missed the other orphans enormously when they headed out into the forest to browse each morning so Angela made the decision to let him join them, mindful that his happiness was the most important ingredient towards complete and ultimate healing.

Little stoic Luggard quickly became a part of our baby herd, remaining closer to home, and a firm favourite of orphans Tamiyoi and Jotto. He savoured his freedom from the outset, and did not let his broken leg hamper his activities, as he loved to revel in the soft damp grass after a rain shower, splashing in muddy wallows, or rolling in the cool damp earth. Over the ensuing months, we watched as our little boy not only began to heal but his body condition improved enormously, with his indomitable spirit prevailing throughout. Over the months, fragments of bone were expelled in pockets of pus where the bullet entered and exited his leg

His foot injury healed completely, and soon he was not content with being just a part of the baby herd, but insisted on joining the main orphan herd, heading out further afield each day. Luggard is now able to bear much more weight on his leg, and he does not let his condition inhibit him at all, determined to be an enthusiastic part of all activities. He is pain free judging by the way he throws himself around in the mud wallow, so we feel sure that Luggard will heal in the fullness of time, with a calcification around the knee forming, which will render his back leg slightly shorter than the other, but being able to gift him his life back has been deeply satisfying in one so appreciative as Luggard. He certainly has made the most of every gifted day and absolutely loves his human family, relishing all the attention he attracts, and reciprocating in turn.