A group of villagers were chasing and using spears and arrows to attack an elephant family across the Maasai Mara Nature reserve, Kenya. Sadly, while other elephants ran as fast as they could for dear life, one 5-year-old female elephant fell behind and got hit by 20 sharp arrows all over her body.
Thankfully, she was not too far from help, as a ranger from the Mara Elephant Project (MEP) saw the attack and alerted his team. More rangers arrived quickly by helicopter, including a vet team from Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT)
The vet team, working under Dr. Campaign Limo, safely captured the injured elephant and treated her, as well as two other elephants who were hit by arrows too. Luckily, no one needed to go to rehabilitation for further treatment. In fact, all of them walked away.
“For this young female, while she had been targeted with a substantial and shocking number of arrows, none of these was poison arrows,” Rob Brandford, executive director of the DSWT in the UK, said. “Elephants’ skin is very thick and so, while the wounds were serious in places and would have caused immense pain, none of them was life-threatening. Of course, combined, they were a greater risk, however, with strong antibiotics administered, infection should be mitigated and she should make a full recovery.”
The rescuers were heartbroken by the reason of the attack. Neither had the elephants raided the community’s crops nor did they destroy any property or gotten into a conflict with a livestock. According to MEP, the attackers were chasing the elephants for “pure sport.”
“It was an angry mob of young men from the village that were aggressively pursuing this elephant herd with no cause,” Marc Goss, CEO of MEP, said. “The MEP informant literally witnessed the elephants trying to get back across the Mara River at dawn into the safety of the conservancy, and the crowd reacted by cutting them off and chasing them back towards their community while attacking them with arrows.”
Moreover, Goss points out the fact that there are ongoing complicated problems in similar human-elephant conflicts.
“Though the people in the community look bad in this situation, the issues of land use in the Mara are complex,” Goss said. “There is a war of space going on in the Maasai Mara where the population is growing and the amount of land set aside for wildlife is insufficient. The work MEP is doing will hopefully help determine the future of this ecosystem and the wildlife and people that depend on it.”
Unfortunately, these conflicts are not going to soften any time sooner. Nevertheless, the success of this specific rescue has cheered everyone up.
“After the sheer horror for all the teams on the ground in witnessing the female elephant with 20 arrow wounds, the majority of which were sticking into her body … the highlight was removing that last arrow, and knowing that thanks to our combined efforts we had saved her,” Brandford said. “Had MEP not responded when they did, she would have been hit by more arrows, and it would have been likely she would have been killed as a result. So knowing she’d been saved … that is one of the most uplifting elements of our veterinary work and why our vet teams exist.”
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