Earlier this month we wrote about Ben, the elephant that sought out help at Bumi Hills. After a potential poaching attempt, an injured elephant was found outside the doors of Bumi Hills Safari Lodge after making its way up the steep hill alone. The team at Bumi Hills, along with a wildlife vet and volunteers darted, treated and released the elephant, knowing that he would need a follow up treatment in the weeks to come.
Now, for the second time in as many weeks Ben has behaved admirably as we tranquilised him to treat his injured leg on Sunday 12th June. As has become his routine recently, Ben moved out onto the open floodplain from thick bush and slowly made his way towards the lake, feeding. We waited for over an hour until it was decided that he had moved far enough away from the bush not to be able to dash back into it once darted.
As with the first procedure, the dart went in perfectly and eight minutes later he slowly lay down on his haunches, with his left (injured) side exposed. What was different this time around was that there was a herd of cows and calves nearby who curiously watched as we moved in to start working on Ben. A few times during the 50 minute procedure their curiosity got the better of them and they wandered too close and had to be pushed back to allow us to carry out the procedure safely. To drive them off the BHAPU scouts walked directly towards them clapping and shouting to keep them at a safe distance so we could carry out the procedure safely. As an apex predator most wildlife is wary of a human on foot and in most cases, certainly at Bumi, they will turn and run as soon as they are approached too closely on foot.
Although still infected and oozing the wound has healed very well since the first procedure and the swelling in the general area has come down. The wound was flushed out and treated, and Ben was given another dose of long-acting antibiotics as well as anti-inflammatories, pain killers and a vitamin boost to aid the healing process. X-rays were taken of his scapula but due to the size of it and the awkward position of the effected area these were inconclusive, so the cause of the wound remains a mystery.
Ben’s tracking collar was removed before the reversal drug was given and as with the first procedure he was up on his feet within five minutes, before marching off across the floodplain to join a nearby herd!
Based on the improvement in his condition and mobility over the past two weeks and the state of the wound now, the overall prognosis is that Ben has an extremely good chance of making a full recovery, albeit over a couple of months.
Although monitoring him will be more difficult now without a tracking collar fitted it is hoped that he won’t move too far away to allow us to keep track of his progress!
Whether Ben appeared at the staff houses a fortnight ago looking for help or whether it was purely coincidental we will never know, but we are certain that he has a much better chance of making it through this ordeal now. We have learnt a huge amount from this brave elephant and are truly humbled by the support he and we have received. The US$3,500 raised through the #helpben campaign has gone a long way to covering the costs of his treatment and without it we may have been dealing with a very different outcome today!
Once again thanks to Dr. Richard Hoare from African Bush Camps Foundation for providing the initial treatment, to Dr.Keith Dutlow and Dr. Lisa Marabini from the Aware Trust Zimbabwe for their work today, to staff and management of the Bumi Hills Safari Lodge for their logistical support and providing the vets with accommodation and meals, to the Bumi Hills Anti Poaching Unit (BHAPU) for their vigilant monitoring of Ben over the past two weeks, to Zimparks and Nyaminyami Rural District Council for their assistance in helping us obtain the necessary authority and permission and to Tami Walker Photography for documenting the last week of Ben’s recovery and the follow up procedure.