A visit from the doctor


Laura Keating, International Intern

Date Published

Most of my elephant sightings so far have been happy ones – frolicking about in the safety of the park amongst the abundance of food and water that has come with the rains. But yesterday we came across a female elephant with gun shot wounds, and I got a taste of how hard life for these elephants can be…

Her name is Euphrates, and she is the matriarch of the Rivers family. The researchers here have classed them as ‘sporadic’, in the sense that they only visit the park once in a while. When we came across her yesterday, she was standing in the shade behind the other females in the group. With our approach, the others wandered off but Euphrates remained. It was not until we were essentially next to her that we noticed swelling in her back right foot. When she finally moved we also noticed she was favoring her front left leg, and limping quite heavily.

In classic Save the Elephants style, the team leapt into action immediately. Jerenimo got in touch with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), and organized for a vet to come the next day. The next day we set out early in three separate cars – Karunya and I were with Shifra along the River in Samburu, Jerenimo went north, and Chris in Buffalo Springs – to find Euphrates in anticipation of the vet’s arrival. At about 9:00 am we found the Rivers as they moved south towards the river, but sadly Euphrates was not with them. We continued the search, and at about 9:30 am Jerenimo found her heading in the same direction that her family had gone half and hour earlier.

Once we had located her, Chris called the vet. It took only an hour and a half or so for him to get to us. By this point, Euphrates had crossed the river and was grazing on the bank of the river on the Buffalo Springs side. She eventually moved into an open clearing nearby, where the vet darted her so that they could treat her wounds.

It turns out that the bullet wounds are old ones – the skin had healed over, and her broken bones had fused. The bullet in her front left foot had gone straight through her leg – we could see the scars from where it entered just above her elbow and exited on the other side. Her broken bones had healed incorrectly, which is perhaps what was giving her pain again now. Since the injuries were now internal, there was not much the vet could do. He gave her an antibiotic injection, and sent her on her way.

Update: Two days later we saw Euphrates again – re-united with her family, but still badly limping. When we saw them again a week later, she was moving along with her family at the same pace as the others and was no longer limping!