By Jessica Wilmot, Elephant Alive.
What started off as a normal research day in the field, ended as one of the most humbling experiences for the Elephants Alive research team. On route looking for one of our collared elephants, we drove past a waterhole where a few young bulls were drinking water. We stopped to take ID photos of the bulls in view and waited for one particular one that was hiding in the mopane thicket, continuously dusting himself, to come closer to allow us to take photos. When he finally came into view, we immediately noticed a bundle of wire cord dragging behind him. It then became clear that this cord was tightly wound around his right back leg. Without intervention, this bull elephant would not have been able to remove the cord by himself and would eventually experience excruciating pain as it wrapped more tightly around his leg.
I immediately contacted Henry Hibbett, the manager of Ndlopfu, one of the shareholder blocks in Umbabat Private Nature Reserve, who immediately contacted the vet, Pete Rogers, together with the owner of the property we were on, as well as getting permission to dart the elephant. It was with sheer luck that the vet was with someone who could drop him off with his helicopter, as dusk was steadily approaching.
With the elephant safely sedated, our team worked wonders in removing the cord as quickly as possible. Luckily, no external injuries occurred but his foot was hideously swollen from all the pressure. I shudder to think what would have happened to this beautiful bull had we not decided by chance to drive past that waterhole. But thankfully we did, allowing Elephants Alive to be part of something wonderful. It’s not every day that you feel like you’ve actually made a difference in the world, but this day was an exception.
Checking our ID records later that evening, we realised that this was a 20 year old bull called Kenny. We look forward to seeing Kenny again and continuing our work in the field.
An elephant sized thank you to vet Pete Rogers – wildlife vet, Henry Hibbett – Manager of Ndlopfu, Paul de Luca – landowner, Jana Meyer – helicopter pilot, and Umbabat Private Nature Reserve for covering the costs of the operation and Theo van Wyk, Chairman of Umbabat’s assistance for making this happen.