Written by: Paul Steyn
Earlier this week a herd of five elephants arrived on the lawn in front of Baines’ River Camp. One of the young males had distinctive torn ears and we immediately identified him as an old friend.
It was a few years ago when we found this young guy not too far from Baines’, with a snare around his head cutting deep into his neck. It was an incredibly sad sight to see and we were a little unsure how to react to the situation. Do we take control by helping the animal, and run the risk of negatively impacting the herd or hurting the elephant further? Do we put the animal out of his misery? Or do we possibly leave the situation as is?
After some deliberation, camp owner Tim Featherby took the decision to fly in Doc Parsons, a local vet from Mazabuka, to assess the options. Having monitored the elephants for 24 hours, we caught up with the herd on an adjacent property not far from Baines’ River Camp.
This is when things got interesting.
The calf was part of a very protective breeding herd and the mother wanted nothing to do with us. With trumpets and aggressive displays of protection, she made it impossible for us to tranquilize the calf. In order to calm the situation, we had to sedate the mother first, hoping this would open up an opportunity to get to the calf. But then another protective female took on maternal duties and began to charge at us with such tenacity that we had to sedate her too.
On the third try we finally managed to dart the calf and were then able to cut off the snare, clean the wound and apply the antibiotic in the hope that it wasn’t too late. We administered the antidote to the three sedated animals and waited patiently to see what would happen. When the confused elephants came round, they immediately turned and came for us like angry giants on the loose. The final moments of the day had us high tailing out of the area with a bunch of crazed elephants hot on our heels.
Tim is ecstatic to see how well the young elephant is doing. “As the photographs show, human intervention really does make a huge difference, especially in cases such as this. By the look of things, it would appear that the female has since had a further calf and all have survived to tell the tale.”
Maybe this week’s visit was just the ele’s way of ‘stopping by’ to say thanks! It may be a cliché, but it’s also completely true: an elephant never forgets.