One small step for the elephant Motola, one giant leap for the injured animals of the world.
Motola lost her foot and most of her left leg when she walked over a land.mine 10 years ago.
But yesterday, she happily walked out – if a little hesitant – after being fitted with a state-of-the-art prosthetic limb.
On her first walk with the prosthesis, 48-year-old Motola stepped out of her enclosure for a few minutes, picked up some dust with her trunk, and jubilantly sprayed it into the air.
Soraida Salwala, a founder of the Asia Elephant Friends Foundation in Thailand, said: “It has gone very well – she has walked around twice.
“She hasn’t put all her weight on it yet, but she’s fine.”
Motola was injured in 1999 while working at a logging camp on the Thailand-Burmese border, an area rife with land.mines after a half-century of civil war.
Her job was to move large trees, but her owner let her roam freely into a nearby forest and search for food one lunchtime.
She stepped on a land.mine, and her badly da.maged leg had to be amputated.
After multiple treatments, Motola has worn a temporary device for the past three years to strengthen her leg muscles and tendons and prepare her for a permanent prosthesis.
The surgery to correct it used enough anesthetic to knock 70 people unconscious – and has now entered the Guinness Book of World Records.
The leg was created by the Prostheses Foundation, which also manufactures prosthetics for human amputees.
Motola was treated at Elephant Hospital – the world’s first – in northern Thailand.
Since Soraida founded it in 1993, it has treated thousands of elephants for medical problems ranging from eye infections to g.unshot wo.unds.
Numbers in the wild have declined dramatically, while domesticated elephants – Thailand’s truck, taxi, and logging workers – have decreased from 13,400 in 1950 to 2,500 today due to modernization.
The only growth industry is tourism, which uses elephants to walk through the forest.