There are fewer than 100 great tuskers estimated to be left across Africa so when the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and KWS Mobile Veterinary Unit successfully treated three injured elephants in a 36 hour period last week – they were, in fact, arguably saving 3% of the tusker population.
The first elephant was spotted by our Aerial Surveillance Pilot on a routine afternoon aerial patrol with a huge poison arrow wound on his side. With nightfall fast approaching, our Aerial Team coordinated with our Mobile Veterinary Unit to treat the tusker the next morning and the next day our pilot was airborne and in search of the injured tusker.
With elephants roaming up to 80km a day, the race was on to find him before the poison could enter his blood stream, leading to an agonising and slow death. But whilst in the air, our pilot spotted a further two massive bulls, each hit with poisoned arrows. Noting their GPS position, our teams now had three tuskers to treat, all in thick bush.
The first in line for treatment was the third bull that had been spotted. Heading out to where he had been sighted, our DSWT/KWS Vet Unit led by Dr Poghorn and our nearby Anti-Poaching Team soon found him, darted him and set to work to remove the bull’s poisoned and dead flesh.
After a swift operation, the bull was up on his feet and the team moved to treat the second sighted bull who had moved into the open. A well-aimed dart by Dr Poghorn caused the bull to go down, and another quick operation saw Dr Poghon remove a bent poisoned arrow from the large wound. Soon the bull was assisted to his feet and on his way.
Silent but deadly, all three tuskers were attacked with poisoned arrows, which can slowly kill an elephant depending on the freshness of the poison, the location of the arrow and how deeply it penetrates.
Thanks to rapid treatment all three are expected to make a full recovery, but spotting injured animals early is key and locating any animal in the vastness of the Kenyan bush is the first hurdle.