Wildlife rescue - Snare removal

Snare removal on a female Elephant - December 24th, 2016

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The day before Christmas

We are not sure how you chose to spend your Christmas Eve but this year my wife Stephanie and I decided to do something a little different from everyone else on the afternoon of 24th December 2016.

We spent the afternoon responding to a reported sighting of a very badly snared elephant outside of the Park.

We apologize in advance for the long story but when we dart a snared animal in the bush it's not like a veterinarian going in to a sanitized and controlled operating theater to perform surgery on a injured animal. Many unexpected things happen in the bush and there's always a story behind our darting experiences.

The afternoon started well and we were very lucky to find the snared elephant in a large open area. Unfortunately she was very nervous and being injured she felt exposed in the open area without any vegetation to hide or protect her. This meant we couldn't approach or dart her from a vehicle in the open and had to wait for her to return to the thick bush where I could dart her on foot.

Obviously approaching a wounded elephant in thick vegetation, on foot, armed only with a dart rifle might sound fairly dangerous.... yet this is precisely what we did!!

The first challenge was finding her in the thick bush!! Tracking a big animal like an elephant is normally pretty easy but this injured elephant had been wandering around from food to water in this area for many days and her tracks were everywhere. It was quite a challenge therefore to locate and follow her most recent footprints but they finally led us to a place where I could see a few patches of grey skin hidden within the dense green foliage. What I saw was enough for me to easily dart her from a distance of 10m.

The wound was horrific and this poor elephant must have been in terrible pain. Once her breathing and temperature had been stabilized we could begin to remove the copious amounts of pus and dead skin from the wound to expose the deeply embedded snare. It was tragic to see how only two strands of knotted, high-tensile steel wire could caused so much pain and damage but once the snare had been removed we were able to debride and wash the wound in a betadine solution.

After it had been cleaned and special products to repel flies and prevent screw-worm infestation had been applied, we could finally inject her with long-acting penicillin and coat the wound with an antibiotic wound powder to dry the wound and promote healing.

Approximately one hour after she had been darted we administered the antidote to reverse the M99 immobilizing drug and within a minute she was standing. It was intensely emotional for Stephanie and I to watch her wake up, take a sniff with her trunk to inspect the strange new smells around her leg before turning around and disappearing into the thick green vegetation.

It's always a hugely rewarding experience to leave an animal in much better condition than we found it but for us this was a truly unforgettable way to spend Christmas Eve.

With best wishes for a very Happy New Year.

Paul and Stephanie de Montille


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