Baby wild elephant saved by Animals Asia vet

06 March 2015

elephant image 1

A mercy dash by an Animals Asia vet helped save a wild baby elephant’s life after it was caught in a hunter’s trap.

The young animal is one of Vietnam’s last remaining wild elephants.

Senior Veterinarian Joost Philippa flew to the central province of Dak Lak to attend to the four year old.

Dubbed The Little Elephant after a children’s song popular in Vietnam, this elephant was found to have been caught in a wire trap which had cut into the flesh around his front left foot and serrated his trunk as he desperately tried to free himself.

The wound was seriously infected, with the cut so deep that the elephant’s large toenails and some bone had fallen off.

Vet Joost Philippa used a blowpipe to achieve "standing sedation" in the elephant (1)

Animals Asia Senior Veterinarian Joost Philippa said:
“Large areas of tissue were dead or missing. A very large area of the foot was open, while a large abscess had broken the skin, and continued from the front to the back of the leg. The hole in his trunk was a good 5cm - it had started to heal, and he was using it well despite the defect.”

A blowpipe was used to achieve a level of ‘standing sedation’ in the elephant whereby the animal has a deep level of sedation and pain relief but remains standing and is even capable of walking.

Large areas of tissue were dead or missing

For the safety of the rescue team, the weight of the elephant was also supported by large ropes which restricted his movement while the wound was attended.

Joost added:
“Although a small elephant, he is also very powerful. As we treated him we had to keep the safety of the whole team in mind as it is possible for the animal to suddenly snap out of such sedation.”

Thanks to the help of mahouts and vets from the Dak Lak Elephant Conservation Centre, Joost was able to cut away the dead tissue and flush the wound with antiseptic.

The dead tissue was cut away and the wound was flushed with antiseptic (1)

The centre will now monitor the progress of The Little Elephant before making a decision as to whether he can be released back into the wild.

Animals Asia’s Vietnam Director, Tuan Bendixsen said:
“Wild elephants are an enormously important part of Vietnam’s natural heritage as can be seen in the popularity of the children’s song. I can’t imagine there is a child in the country that doesn’t know the words by heart. But there is a very real danger that Vietnam’s elephants won’t be around for the next generation to appreciate.

“We’re delighted that we were able to help provide expertise that potentially saved the life of one of Vietnam’s last remaining wild elephants. The Little Elephant has all our best wishes for a speedy recovery.”

It is believed that Vietnam has just 60 wild elephants remaining in three main herds. The tiny population is said to not be breeding well sparking fears that the species could become extinct in the country within a generation.

The Dak Lak Elephant Conservation Centre was set up in 2012 on the orders of Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung in order to conserve the remaining elephant population in the country.

Translation of excerpt from 'The Little Elephant'