Elephant calf snare removal

June 2021
Elephant calf treated for severe leg snare

Field rangers in the Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve located a young elephant calf with a severe snare wound on its back left leg. The severity of the wound was affecting the calf’s movement and the mother and calf had separated from the main herd, unable to keep up. Wild Wonderful World was called to assist with funding to help dart and treat the wounded elephant calf.

We landed with the helicopter in the bush and met with the ground team (2 anti poaching rangers, the reserve manager, ecological manager and a few guides/trackers from nearby lodges), to discuss the plan of action. The helicopter went up and flew close to the mother and calf, firstly for the vet to check the extent of the calf’s injury (and the size of the calf to ensure the right amount of drugs are administered) and also to see if the Mother would run off or stay close and protective. She did not leave her calf’s side, so it was decided the mother would also need to be darted to enable the team to get close enough to the calf to treat.

First the calf was darted with a sedative and took around 8 minutes to go down. Next the mother was darted, and she took 3 darts before she was fully sedated. The vet wanted the mother and calf to go down in the same place so that both could be monitored and woken up together – this was important to ensure the mother did not get separated from the calf, who then would have been in danger from predators.

Once sedated, the helicopter landed and the vet and ground team moved in. The wire had cut very deeply into the elephant’s leg and was still attached, creating a nasty wound and a lot of swelling. Wire cutters were used to cut away the snare- which was a nasty cable snare. The vet flushed and cleaned the wound vigorously, and sprayed it with an antiseptic. The calf was given a strong dose of anti-biotics to assist with the infection. The vet noted that he was slightly anaemic as well and had lost considerable condition, so vitamins were also administered.

The wake up process was a quick one – first the reversal drug was injected into the cow and then the vet ran to the calf to administer the calf’s reversal. The calf woke up first, followed very shortly by the mother. The both stood a bit dazed for some moments but moved toward one another and then together moved off into the bush.

Considerable pressure would have been released from the calf’s leg without the snare wire still attached, and the vet said he was hopeful that the wound would heal and the calf would do well. We have not yet received any updated or sightings from this wounded calf, but certainly he is in a much better position than he was previously and now stands a fighting chance of survival.

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