Field rangers in the Timbavati were alerted to strange looking elephant tracks on Saturday morning (15th May). They tracked the elephant down and found a sub adult bull with a car tyre stuck on his front left foot. The Timbavati Ecological team called the wildlife vet, who in turn called Wild Wonderful World to assist with funding to help free the bull from the cumbersome tyre.
Thanks to our generous donors, we were able to offer immediate funding support for this operation and headed out straight away to the Timbavati reserve with Joel Alves, the wildlife vet. A ranger team was trailing the elephant bull to ensure we could locate him quickly. Due to the thick bush, helicopter support was required and Hope for Wildlife Helicopter services came to assist. The vet darted the elephant from the helicopter and then Jana the pilot skilfully ushered the elephant into a more open space.
Immediately the team set to work trying to remove the car tyre – indeed it was stuck tight and was clear that the elephant would have been unable to remove it on his own. Left for significant time, the tyre would have rubbed a wound which left untreated would become infected and potentially life threatening. Where he got the tyre in the middle of a vast wilderness area (Greater Kruger), no one knows!
Much pulling and tugging was attempted, attempts were also made to cut the tyre, but the metal wire within the tyre made this very difficult. In the end, two wheel spanners and much manoeuvring did the job and the tyre came free. Luckily, the tyre had not yet rubbed a wound onto the elephant’s leg – indication that it had not been stuck for very long.
The vet gave the elephant a last once over and administered an antibiotic to the dart zone to ensure no abscess forms. A reversal drug was injected into one of the big veins in the ear and within 5 minutes the elephant was back up on his feet! We watched for a few more minutes to make sure the elephant bull was OK and moving well, before leaving him in peace. An incredibly swift response and smooth operation, and another animal freed!