Where one team finds heartbreak, another finds energy to persevere
With the sun setting below the Ivorian horizon we all gather in front of an elephant.
This morning, a group of three had been tracked far away from our base. With tremendous patience and skill from our local trackers, we found their trace and for several hours we followed. When they finally got close to our 'capture zone' our veterinarian rushed to the helicopter for an aerial capture.
After 30 minutes of flight, the anesthetic dart finds its mark, a big elephant bull that we had seen trying to cross a road close to our transport vehicles.
The grader opened a path all the way to the sleeping elephant and both air and ground team reassembled next to him.
While under our team's supervision, the elephant went into cardiac arrest under anesthesia. Our veterinarian quickly injected the antidote, but there was no reaction. For more than 15 minutes we tried to resuscitate the elephant, all in vain.
After more than 18 months of preparation, the ground portion of the mission has been an “all-in” effort from every member of the team. We've been working non-stop for four days now, and we are tired, so are our trackers. But now, most of all, we are confronting the shock and sadness wrought from the death of animal we had been laboring to rescue.
Even with all of our protocols that have been scrupulously followed, even having the best translocation professionals in the business, we know that the risk of losing an elephant exists. If this elephant were to stay in Daloa, if the alternative of translocating the elephant were not an option, he would soon become yet another fallen victim of human-elephant conflict.
While our capture team was dealing with this tragic loss, the same day our release team was met with more welcome success from our mission.
The elephant we had captured the evening before was transported overnight and in the morning, our dear 'Pleasure,' a name given to him by villagers, arrived to Azagny National Park.
After having to wait a few hours while the rain loosened its grip on the park, the doors to the transport truck opened and one more elephant strolled out to find freedom in a habitat unspoiled by the presence of humans.
In the short-term, 'Pleasure' lives up to his name. He will remain today's ray of sunshine, and he will help us move forward and expend all our energy to ensure that others will soon join him in Azagny.