sabi sabi ranger stories

wounded elephant bull

The call came in one early December morning - a bull elephant was seen near the Sabi River and he appeared to have been shot behind the ear. He was bleeding badly and seemed to be in a lot of pain. My tracker Richard and I set out to find him to see what was going on.

We found the tracks of a small herd of bull elephants near to the place where the wounded bull was reported to have been seen. We followed the tracks through the thick bush, trying to be as quiet as possible so as not to scare the herd into running away. The tracks led down to the river bed where we found 3 bulls. Unfortunately our wounded bull was not among them, so we had to look elsewhere. We eventually picked up his spoor - he was bleeding heavily and soon we were covered in blood that we picked up off the bush. Suddenly Richard stopped and pointed to a nearby Tamboti thicket where I could just make out the shape of an elephant - we had found our bull.

I left Richard and went to call the warden of the Sabi Sand Wildtuin, explaining the situation. The warden informed me he would be calling the state vet department to come and assist us.

I went back to where I had left Richard - the bull had not moved. He kept on picking up sand with his trunk and was blowing it into the wound to try stem the flow of blood. Eventually the vet arrived and preparations were made to dart the elephant. The tranquilliser used was called 'M99' and takes between 8 and 12 minutes to take effect. Once the bull was down, we pushed him onto his side to examine the wound. To our relief we found that he had been wounded by another tusk - probably that from another male during a fight over a female. Normally we would not treat these injuries, as they are natures way of controlling population size, but since he was down we decided to help him.

The wound was at least half a meter deep and filled with dirt, leaves and other debris the elephant had pushed into it to stop the bleeding. After cleaning the wound and putting antiseptic cream into it, we woke him up and watched him walk across the Sabi River and into the Kruger Park.

The vet informed us that the elephant's immune systems are strong and he should fully recover within a couple of weeks.

What amazes me about the whole situation is the way in which the elephant kept on eating and conserving energy, knowing that if he stopped it would mean a certain death.

Stefan Winterboer


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