Save the Elephants to the rescue


Alexandra Mutungi, National Intern

Date Published

The Long Term Monitoring over the last couple of days has had mixed observations. One day there are almost no elephants in the Samburu National Reserve and the next we see huge numbers of sporadic groups coming back. The virtues are back and in their company was a bull formerly of the Storms group. Nothing unusual about that, however, there was something strange about him. Abdi spotted what it was. What we all hoped he wouldn’t say…an arrow-head lodged in the bull’s back. He must have been struck while in Laikipia by an upset farmer retaliating over a crop raid. The only thing we can do is to call the vet and have someone monitor the bull’s whereabouts so that he does not disappear in the dense bush.

In the meantime, as we wait for the vet we continue with our work and come across a huge tree that has split into two equal halves and fallen over. It looked like lightning had struck it but that was not the case. Someone had started a fire inside the tree. Over 400 litres of water were used and still nothing could stop what had been started by some unknown people looking to get honey from a bee hive on the tree. Despite the efforts by STE rangers to supress the internal combustion, it had already penetrated and burnt too deep down the trunk. 24hours later the base of the trunk was still smouldering and now resembled a huge piece of charcoal. One less tree= One less carbon sequester, one less soil erosion inhibitor, one less habitat.

The Mobile Vet Unit arrived and so the immobilisation process was soon to be underway. We were going to have to cross over to Buffalo Springs. Yes, Buffalo Springs. Driving across the dry river bed, like it was a covert mission we were in hot pursuit of the bull. Three vehicles one bull fortunately not in musth; we form a ring around him to enable successful darting with the immobilisation drug. Dart in causing the bull to run but not a single sound from him as he finally gently lay down to slumber within minutes. Now we were on the clock, all units promptly moved in. His eyes were covered and he was kept cool by spraying the back of his ear with water. The ear has a dense network of capillaries with the cool blood travelling to the rest of the body making it the ideal place to lower an elephant’s body temperature. An arrowhead definitely over 10cm long was removed. Blood and pus were flowing down his back. The wound was treated, antibiotics and the antidote administered. Naturally, elephants splash themselves with mud and dust to repel insects and also protect them from UV radiation. However, for extra medical care repellent was sprayed around the wound area to prevent infection. We wait to see how the elephant will do. After about 15 minutes he was up and about foraging like nothing had happened. But elephants never forget. We just hope he remembers us for intervening and not for being a nuisance.