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The Mashatu Elephant

It all began on the 9th of October. My arrival at Mashatu Game Reserve coincided with the sighting of an elephant cow accompanied by a young male and a baby (less than a year old). The cow was leaving a distinctive track- she had accidentally walked into the brake rim of a truck and was not able to shake it off. Being very heavy, she could no longer lift her leg, but had to drag it, reducing her mobility. This had made things difficult for her and so she was no longer with her herd and stayed in a small area, close to a waterhole and our camp which also gave her access to water and safety.

If it had been an injury arising from natural causes we would have just felt bad, but as this was the result of human negligence, we needed to do something about it. After a lot of discussions and observations that the state of her leg was deteriorating, we had fears that it could turn septic. We searched for solutions, we finally came up with some ideas for an intervention. On the 18Th of October, we did a preliminary search to locate the cow in preparation of the intervention. We followed her tracks and located her about a kilometre west of the camp. She was alone without the two calves. On the 19th of October, a team of veterinarians, assistants and park authorities came together to dart the elephant and use a grinder to get the rim off. The whole operation was carried out with the utmost care and great professionalism. It was an incredibly special moment to watch her get up and go back to her life.

For two weeks, we did not have a sighting of her or the calves. On the 31st of October, while watching a pair of cheetahs at a waterhole a group of elephants approached and as the cheetahs left, we turned our attention to the elephants. To our absolute delight, we realised that among the herd was the female and her two calves! A fantastic end to this story but a sobering reminder of the effects our negligent actions as humans can have on wildlife.

Thank you to the Ecotraining team and Jeanetta Selier for your involvement in making this a success!

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