This is the moment vets flew to the rescue of an elephant calf after it became trapped in a poacher’s trap in Kenya.
Footage shows the baby elephant unable to free its ankle from the tight of ropes tying it to a stake in the ground in a remote area of the Tana River in the Ndera Community Reserve.
Dr. Poghon and his team from the KWS/SWT Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit from the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust flew to the remote area by helicopter before cutting the elephant free to be reunited with its mother.
The clip begins with a team of veterinarians taking off as they search for the baby elephant, whose mother has been found helplessly watching from about 50 yards away.
Upon arrival, the veterinarians fired a dart laced with anesthetic at the calf to subdue the distressed animal.
When the calf fell to the ground, veterinarians moved in to assess its injuries. They quickly cut the rope and sprayed it on the w.ou.nd on the elephant’s ankle and one of its ears with blue antiseptic.
After the group successfully free the elephant, it woke up and happily bounds off into a nearby bush.
Amie Alden, from the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, describes traps set up by poachers as an ‘extremely cruel threat to wildlife’.
Speaking of the rescue mission, she added: ‘Our Airwing is ready for situations like these, so the helicopter carried Dr. Poghon to the scene, where the mother stood watching her child from a distance about 50 meters away.
‘There was still a very real possibility that the mother and another adult elephant nearby would move in, so our pilot circled overhead to monitor the situation and protect the ground team.
‘Once the baby succumbed to the anesthetic, the rope trap was easily severed and fortunately, we were able to help free this baby from the tragic end.
‘The team felt a sense of accomplishment and were grateful to be in a position to correct such mistakes.’
A simple trap is usually a noose made of wire, rope, or cable and is hung around the animal’s path. As the trapped animal fights to free itself, the noose tightens, cutting into the flesh and suffocating the animal if it is around the neck or causing a deep wo.un.d if around the foot.
Snares typically capture smaller animals, such as Impala, to feed the appetite for bushmeat, but large animals such as elephants and rhinos can sometimes step on them.
In December 2020, a responsive wildlife rescue team saved the life of an elephant after it was spotted with a hunter’s trap in Zimbabwe.
The elephant, known as Martha, was seen with the looped piece of wire tightly cutting into her leg as she wandered the plains with her calf.
Catherine Norton, 58, a conservationist living in the country, was called to Musango Island Safari Camp after her owner discovered Martha was struggling to walk.
Norton said she and her team had to immobilize the elephant, saying the creature would have surely died without intervention.
And in 2017, a lion in Zimbabwe was killed after getting caught in a trap that supposedly cut the animal’s stomach and ripped its neck.
Kenya has cracked down on illegal poaching as it tries to conserve vital wildlife, a move that shows elephant populations are starting to rise again.
According to the country’s first wildlife census, Kenya has a total of 36,280 elephants, up 12% from the figure recorded in 2014, when poaching was at its highest.
‘Efforts to increase penalties on crimes related to threatened species appear to be bearing fruits,’ the report, which counted 30 species of animals and covered nearly 59% of Kenya’s landmass, said.
In March, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) warned that poaching and habitat destruction, mainly due to agricultural land conversion, were devastating elephant populations across Africa.
The African savanna elephant population has declined by at least 60% over the past half-century, prompting them to be reclassification as ‘endangered’ in the latest update to the IUCN’s ‘Red List’ of threatened species.
Across Africa, poachers kill around 100 elephants a day for their meat and tusks, leaving only about 400,000 wild elephants left, according to World Elephant Day.
Experts have estimated that elephants could become extinct within the next decade due to illegal poaching and other factors.
Like several other African peers, Kenya is trying to strike a balance between protecting its wildlife while managing the dangers they pose when they attack human settlements in search of food and water.
‘(Wildlife) is our heritage, this is our children’s legacy, and it is important that we can know what we have in order to be better informed on policy and also necessary actions as we move forward,” Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said last month when received the wildlife census.
He added: ‘It’s a national heritage; it’s something we should carry with pride.