Spotlight Africa: A close shave with spear heads for a Kenyan jumbo

The Kenya Wildlife Service and the International Fund for Animal Welfare recently collared nine elephants to track their movements that will assist in mapping out elephant migratory corridors and equip the park's management to mitigate human-elephant conflict and mount security operations against poachers. By chance, one of the elephants was found with two spearheads embedded in its body--a case of either conflict with humans or poaching.

Two spearheads were stuck on the side and arm of the bull.
Feeling the abscess - Dr. David Ndeereh, a vet with Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), examines an abscess on a bull elephant that had been immobilised for collaring. Two spearheads were stuck on the side and arm of the bull. Luckily, after being overwhelmed by the tranquiliser drugs, he collapsed on the safe side. After confirming the general health of the elephant, Dr. Ndeereh then focused on treating the animal as the capture team fixed the collar.

Cutting through flesh.
Cutting through flesh - Dr. Ndeereh cuts through the infected flesh of the 30-40 year old elephant to remove the embedded spearhead. The neighbouring community in this area leads a pastoralist life and is not known to spear elephants. However, this was a case of either conflict with humans or poaching. Had the elephant not been picked as a collaring candidate, he would have eventually died a slow and painful death from the spear wounds.

Removing second spearhead.
Removing the second spearhead - Once one spearhead was out, the vet moved to the second. The one on the side had a huge abscess while the one on the arm was not as serious.

Each was about four inches long. Ouch!
Spearheads out - After a three-minute struggle, both spearheads were out. Each was about four inches long. Ouch!

Cleaning the wound.
Cleaning the wound - Once the spearheads were extracted, Dr. Ndeereh and his colleague, Dr. Jeremiah Poghon, cleaned the wounds with water, removed the pus and swabbed the infected flesh with hydrogen peroxide.

Applying antiseptic.
Applying antiseptic - Once the area was cleaned with antiseptic, the elephant was jabbed with antibiotics to reduce chances of infection.

Treated and collared.
Treated and collared - In 12 minutes flat, the bull had been collared, spearheads extracted, and was on its way, hopefully, to continue with its morning breakfast schedule after the slight interruption.

- EW

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Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
James Isiche, Regional Director, East Africa
Regional Director, East Africa
Jason Bell, Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy