It’s Monday 12th October 2009 and rescued elephant

Emily and Rob were very lucky to be involved in removing a snare from a baby elephant. These opportunities come from time to time and are a real bonus to living our lives in the bush. Emily was thrilled and so over to you Ems…..

The story began some two weeks ago when we received a radio call from Joseph one of our Nkwali guides “we have found a young elephant with a snare around its neck”. So e-mails were abandoned and off we rushed to see for ourselves. Just behind Nkwali we found the small herd of three elephants and sure enough the little one had a thick snare around his neck. We advised Rachel McRobb from SLCS (South Luangwa Conservation Society) but the light was fading so there was nothing we could do. All of our guides were asked to keep an eye out.

Nothing…..

Elephant at Nkwaliyoung elephant staying close to mum

Saturday morning Rob and I decided on a short game drive before we hit the office. We were just about to turn around when suddenly the top of a large combretum bush started to shake furiously – only one creature that could be having that impact – elephants! So we scooted around the corner and there they were our 3 elephants, the little one still looking healthy but with the snare still around its neck. Straight back to camp and on the radio to Rachel and her team. They arrived before 8am. Talk about quick response.

Emily & the SLCS team removing the snare from the young elephantmaking sure that the trunk is straight to allow stable breathing

The elephants however were not so cooperative as they had found some lovely thickets with great shade, the perfect spot for a mid morning nap. However, this proved the perfect time for Rachel to get her team organized, drugs and darts filled and put into place and assess the situation. Then the wind changed direction and yes you guessed it those large trunks picked up our scent which displeased mum somewhat so she gathered the youngster up and off they went on their search for some more shade and food.

Emily taking care of young elephantSLCS team

Landrover at the ready and Rob relishing every moment of the challenge we set off through dried up lagoons, thick scrub and bushes. We found them again, this time in a lovely open patch so the perfect opportunity for Rachel to take a shot with her drug filled dart gun. In these situations mum needs to be sedated first. The dart is square shot into her bottom. It is 09:39 and we start timing. Obviously she got a little bit of a surprise by this so they dashed off into the most perfectly shady spot leaving us in the sun whilst we waited for her to drop off. Down she went so we dashed up to where the two others were and darted the little one. Now 09:52 – much less of a song and dance made of this time round and a couple of minutes later sleep has taken over. Auntie was less impressed by us all but was eventually persuaded that it was not the best place for her to be sticking around.

monitoring the elephant breaths, well done Ems!cleaning up the wound of the young elephant

As soon as the coast was clear we all jumped out of the cars and straight over to mum who had fallen in a slightly bad position as she was resting on her chest – as you can probably appreciate in this position there is significant weight involved and we didn’t want her to have problems breathing so 10 of us tried for 5 minutes to rock her over. After mum was organized with trunk out, ear over her eye and water being poured over her so as not to overheat, it was time for the attention to be turned to the youngster. Holding the trunk and monitoring the breathing that was my job!! Simple but so exciting, 4 breaths every 15 seconds, make sure that the trunk is nice and straight and that the tip isn’t squashed and closed. Concentrating on the job in hand also being watered down as mums run off was heading in my direction I suddenly realized that I was sitting between 2 elephants, what an amazing experience!

Job well done, the team stepping away from the elephantelephant getting up from the sedative a little confused

Time for Rachel and her team to get going – taking the snare off, cleaning the wound, and administering antibiotics and we were good to go. One last job, reversing the sedative. Job done and they were up and about within 5 minutes. Maybe a little confused by what had just happened and mum was certainly a little unsure of her legs to begin with but it was only a few minutes before auntie had returned with a trumpetous salutation and they started feeding again.

This is by no means an everyday occurrence but wow when it does it certainly is a real kick.
Interesting to see elephants lying down. As the days get hotter there are lots of elephants sleeping under the shady trees around Nkwali. Thirty years ago, before arriving in the Luangwa, I was told that elephants could not lie down, that their weight would crush their lungs but we see not only the youngsters sound asleep but also the adults. A wonderful sight.

Have a great week…

PS There is now space on the trips to Liuwa Plain with Robin as follows:
28 November – 1 space
05 December – 3 spaces

PPS We also have space at Nkwali and the Houses over the Christmas and New Year period! Join us.

elephants taking an afternoon snooze

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