Kariba – Conservationists in northern Zimbabwe – looking for an elephant with a deep wound high up on its trunk, likely due to a snare – say they’re worried it could have already lost up to 80% its trunk.
In a case that shows yet again the terrible injuries that bush meat snaring can cause, officials from the Kariba Animal Welfare Fund Trust (KAWFT) have been pleading with residents of the lakeside town for more than a week to keep a lookout for the sub-adult male which was first spotted on August 15.
Likely sore and frustrated, the elephant tried to charge a vehicle. Locals haven’t seen him since.
“We think the wire snare was already off, but bad damage had been done,” said Debbie Ottman of the Kariba Animal Welfare Fund Trust.
She told News24: “By now he could have lost it completely. He may now be with a trunk only 20 or 30cm long.”
Elephants use their trunks to breathe, grasp objects and drink, so there are also fears this one could be badly dehydrated.
Sadly, this is the second elephant with a snared trunk seen in Kariba in the past few weeks. A young elephant was spotted towards the end of June in a similar state. After extensive efforts to locate it, he was found on July 6, minus the end of its trunk. KAWFT said in a statement: “Fortunately it was not a large length of his trunk sliced off by the wire snare.”
But this latest elephant appears to have been injured much higher up on its trunk.
Snares set for bush meat, both in peri-urban and rural areas, are a huge threat, not only for the animals they’re designed to trap, but also for other often larger animals which get caught in them.
Elephants with severed trunks, likely due to snares, have been spotted elsewhere in Zimbabwe in recent years, including in Gonarezhou National Park in the southeast of the country. In these cases, it’s not clear whether the snaring happened in Zimbabwe or over the border in Mozambique.
Some elephants appear to be able to adapt and carry on with life when a significant portion of their trunk is left intact.
Vets from the Harare-based AWARE Trust at the end of last week had hoped to be able to locate and treat this latest elephant when they travelled to Kariba last week, but he could not be located, the group said on its Facebook page. The vets did however manage to treat an elephant with a swollen leg.
Zimbabwe’s elephants already face a significant threat from poachers. The country’s elephant population was recently reported to have dropped by at least 6.8% in a three-year period, due at least in part to poaching.