Zimbabwe: Relief for Willy the Elephant’s Painful Penis Problem


News24 Correspondent

Date Published

Wildlife vets in Zimbabwe’s Kariba resort have had to treat an elephant with a large and very personal problem: a swollen penis.

“Willy”, as conservationists in the resort town have affectionately named him, was spotted with a “massive” swelling in his genital area around a week before vets were able to dart him.

“It was very noticeable when we first saw him,” Debbie Ottman of the Kariba Animal Welfare Trust (KAWFT) said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

Elephants’ testicles are invisible because they are located under two inches of skin within their bodies. But this elephant “looked like he had [a scrotum] because he was so swollen”, she said. “I’ve never seen this before.”

Vets from the AWARE Trust in Harare came to help treat the animal.

As if he was asking for help, Willy hung around some buildings in Kariba for two weeks. That meant that he was easily located on the day of the procedure.

‘Elephants talk to each other’

“I honestly believe elephants talk to each other,” Ottman said. “It was as if he’d been told, ‘Go there, there are people who will help you’.”

Once he was darted, Willy was found to be suffering from a leakage of fluid in the tissues around his penis, possibly due to a viral infection, according to AWARE.

He was treated with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs. There are some fears his heart may have been affected.

KAWFT on Tuesday posted pictures of the procedure, showing the elephant being sprayed with water while under anaesthetic.

Touchingly, “four or five” elephants hung around the area while Willy was under anaesthetic, Ottman said. Rangers kept a watchful eye on them but they did not disturb the procedure.

As soon as he woke up, Willy charged off towards the waiting group. One of them broke rank and came towards him, “as if he was saying: ‘Well, are you OK?'” Ottman said.