Elephant Rescue – Update
By: Tigger Scott, Fundraising Coordinator
Dear friends and supporters of the Kasanka Trust
We cannot thank you enough for your incredible generosity which enabled us to save the life of one snared elephant here at Kasanka National Park. We put the call out on Thursday last week for your help and by Sunday we were already over our target and able to bring in the experts to help us. THANK YOU. We cannot tell you how much your enormous kindness has meant to us – and knowing that you were all with us throughout this operation gave us hope and spurred us on.
We also owe a huge debt of gratitude to vet Dr Ian Parsons and Don Burton and pilots Edmund Farmer and Brad Reid from Skytrails Zambia, without whom this rescue operation would not have taken place. Also Rachel McRobb from the South Luangwa Conservation Society who provided vital drugs.
We had had scout patrols and multiple vehicles combing the park on the ground throughout last week and last weekend trying to locate the injured animals but although we tracked several herds, we couldn’t find the three which needed our help. (We had received reports of there being three injured elephants in one herd but due to their movement over a wide radius of the park, it was impossible for us to independently verify this). We hoped that with aerial reconnaissance we would have more of a chance of finding any injured animals, which did eventually prove to be the case. The aerial mission began at mid-morning on Monday 21st November when Dr Ian, Don, Edmund and Brad arrived.
After an eventful Monday afternoon flying transects of the park, we thought we had located the herd and I raced off in the car to Chikufwe Plain with a scout patrol, to see if we could track the animals from the ground. Unfortunately, time was not on our side and as evening fell we concluded the elephants must have headed into thick woodland, meaning it would be impossible to find them. We returned to HQ with a growing feeling of urgency knowing we had limited time with Ian, the planes and chopper at our disposal – and of course finding the elephant and freeing it from the awful pain it was in was weighing heavily on us all.
On Tuesday morning all vehicles were out searching and the planes were airborne at first light. My car had a large drum of water on the back which we would use to keep the elephants hydrated once they had been found and were unconscious and whilst Ian removed the snares.
At around 10 a.m. I had just reached Bufumu campsite when a radio call came through that one snared elephant had been located at Kapabi Swamp, about 10 km south. We quickly turned around and sped back towards Kapabi – Edmund’s plane was circling the spot where the elephant had been seen. The herd was made up of eleven animals, most of whom were moving into woodland on the other side of the swamp. Moments later, Brad flew in on the chopper with Ian, who darted the young bull with a snare around his back leg. Just before he fell into unconsciousness, the young bull was wrangling with another young male and Brad had to fly close to the animals to push the other elephant back.
The elephant fell onto his side and Ian worked quickly to remove the wire snare which had become so deeply embedded in the elephant’s back leg that his skin had started to grow over it. The elephant’s trunk twitched from time to time and his breathing was steady. It was a deeply moving sight.
We then approached with water and Ian doused the elephant’s head and upper body. The whole operation probably took one hour from when the dart was fired to when we started to move away from the elephant before he woke up.
We then set off again to resume our aerial and ground search for the other injured animals.
However – I am so sorry to report that sadly, despite driving every road and the planes and helicopter flying over every inch of Kasanka for the rest of the day, we could not locate the little one we had been most worried about. We think that the injured animals were all part of the same herd, however Kasanka National Park has many densely wooded areas and at this time of year the tree canopy is extremely thick, which made it impossible to locate them in time, despite our best efforts. Dr Ian checked every visible elephant and none of the others had snares, leading us to believe that perhaps there were only two injured animals after all – and we managed to rescue one.
So our mission was a success, in part, and we know we did the very best we could. Without your help, the operation could not have taken place at all and we would not have been able to save the life of one young bull.
Thank you all, so much, for helping us to achieve this outcome.
If you would like to make an ongoing donation to the vital conservation work we do here at Kasanka, you can sign up through our website: http://kasanka.com/donate/
With many thanks again and warm wishes to you all
Tigger & the Kasanka team x