Slideshow: Indian forest journey sees rescue of bullet-riddled elephant

IFAW-WTI Bear Rescue Centre veterinarian Dr. Jahan Ahmed filed this report about the rescue of a wounded elephant in Pakke Tiger Reserve in India. –SS

The elephant has been lumbering around in the Pakke Tiger Reserve in India with a severely swollen leg, according to Arunachal Pradesh Forest Department authorities.

We set out to find the injured animal the following day with the help of four captive elephants, kunkis, used in interventions with their wild brethren.

Covering a steep hilly terrain and crossing chest-deep ice-cold Pakke River in two turns, we reach the spot where it has been sighted.

Four forest guards who are tracking the animal are waiting for us; it is indeed a tusker, most likely a sub-adult, they tell us.

I prepare the tranquilisers, and we begin pursuing the injured elephant through the dense forest.

Soon, we see the elephant and sedate it. We find three horrific gunshot wounds—one in its temple, another in the dorsal part of the left knee and the third in its abdominal region.

It must be in terrible pain, and must have difficulties walking with such swelling in its leg, possibly caused by a fracture. The wound in the temple has apparently not proven fatal, but we need to get it checked.

Following immediate first aid, we administer antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs. The authorities decide to move the tusker to our Bear Rescue Centre for long-term care. It is secured with ropes to the kunkis and led through the forest to the centre, but its movement is excruciatingly slow.

We camp for a night in the reserve as crossing the river at such a late hour would be risky. Luckily, our tusker eats with us (its dung seems normal too).

The arduous journey begins again the next day. We walk for hours and again cross the Pakke, reaching the truck that waits for us. We load the animal on and take off toward the centre.

Evidence indicates it to be a case of attempted poaching. One of its injuries is more than a month old while others are much more recent. The poachers probably have been trailing the young animal for its small tusks (8-9 inches long), indicative of the poachers’ desperation and unfortunate state of affairs that we know all too well.

This one is ‘fortunate’ to have been found, unlike many others that are killed annually around the world for their tusks.

It is still too early to say if this particular elephant will be fortunate enough to return to the wild. Time—and intensive rehabilitation efforts—will tell.

--SS

For more information about our efforts in India visit our project page.

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Experts

Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Cynthia Moss, IFAW Elephant Expert
IFAW Elephant Expert
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
James Isiche, Regional Director, East Africa
Regional Director, East Africa
Jason Bell, Program Director, Elephants Regional Director, South Africa
Program Director, Elephants, Regional Director, South Africa
Peter Pueschel, Director, International Environmental Agreements
Director, International Environmental Agreements
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Regional Director, South Asia