Treating a Bull Elephant in the Lali Hills

Published on the 13th of December, 2021

All our field teams have distinct roles to play in conservation: Some track down threats to wildlife, others help the creatures caught in the crosshairs, still others raise the orphans left behind. Despite their different areas of expertise, they all work hand-in-hand to improve the welfare of our natural world.

On Friday, 10th December, we saw this teamwork in action. During a routine patrol near Lali Hills in Galana Ranch, our SWT/KWS Chyulu Mobile Anti-Poaching Unit spotted a bull elephant who was favouring his hind left leg. The ankle was quite swollen, and he was clearly in need of treatment.

Our rangers knew exactly what to do. They reported the elephant’s plight to our Kaluku Field Headquarters, which organised a treatment. The Trust’s helicopter flew to Voi to collect Dr Poghon and the rest of the SWT/KWS Tsavo Mobile Vet Unit. All the while, our rangers with KWS remained in situ, carefully monitoring the elephant.

Once everyone was in position, the helicopter hovered over the bull, so Dr Poghon could dart him from the air. Our pilot then shepherded the patient towards the waiting ground teams. However, when the anaesthetic took effect, the bull came down on the wrong side, leaving the injured ankle inaccessible. This happens from time to time, so we always come prepared: The team hooked custom elephant straps around the patient’s legs and, using their LandCruiser, gently flipped him over.

At last, treatment could commence. Dr Poghon believes the elephant was a former patient who he treated over a year ago for a snare injury. While the wound had healed well in the intervening time, the ankle was very swollen and contained a lot of pus. After draining and cleaning the area, Dr Poghon revived the patient.

This majestic bull got to his feet just as a massive storm rolled in — a sight full of hope, on two fronts.

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