A touching series of photographs shows a mother elephant shot by poachers being saved by UK-funded vets and brought back to her grateful herd.
By the time vets in the Maasai Mara in Kenya found the wild elephant on October 4th she was already bleeding heavily from bullet wounds.
But after careful first aid, the mother elephant is now back with her two calves, who are still dependent on her for milk and protection.
The elephant sustained two bullet wounds to her front leg, which required immediate attention.
Rangers and vets arrived at the scene in an aeroplane provided by the Surrey-based David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.
Wildlife trust spokesperson Amie Alden said: “One of the vets, Dr. Fredrick Olianga, and an assistant tracked the elephant for an hour through the nature reserve.
“Dr. Olianga made the decision to anaesthetise the elephant by tranquiliser dart. However, the elephant quickly took flight and disappeared into the bush, away from sight, once she’d been successfully darted.
“The team made the brave decision to chase after the elephant to ensure her safety and pursued her into the bush.
“They found the elephant unconscious and performed emergency surgery on the elephant’s two bullet-wounds. They cleaned the local area with hydrogen peroxide and iodine before packing the wound with clay.”
Vets administered long-lasting antibiotic and pain relief treatments before the elephant was revived.
Ms Alden said: “The elephant safely rejoined her calves and the mobile veterinary team will keep a close eye on her to make sure she survives.
“Fortunately, the bullets didn’t hit the elephant’s bones and so she is expected to make a full recovery.
A recent report by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, entitled ‘Dead or Alive? Valuing an Elephant’, revealed that an elephant is 76 times more valuable alive than the total value of its ivory.
The report, which notes that 19,400 elephants have been killed so far in 2014, claims a single elephant can raise an average of £13,000 for its tusks but is worth more than one million pounds in ecotourism over a lifetime.
Trust director Rob Brandford said: “The price of ivory has tripled in the past four years, giving the impression that an elephant is worth more alive than dead. This report turns that on its head – elephants are worth 76 times more whilst alive than with their tusks sitting on a mantle piece or adorning someone’s wrist.”
There were 43 reported seizures of ivory made between January and August 2014, totalling 17.8 tonnes.
According to the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC, the average elephant’s tusk contains 5kg of ivory, meaning each elephant is worth £13,000 on average.
By contrast, each elephant can attract up to £14,350 in tourism every year for the local economy, which can amount to over a million pounds in the average elephant’s lifetime.
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