Heartwarming moment vets cut elephant calf free from cruel poachers’ snare in Kenya

  • Vets from the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust freed an elephant from a snare in Kenya
  • The calf was trapped near the Tana River in the Ndera Community Conservancy
  • Video footage shows the vets cutting the rope snare from its ankle with a knife
  • The trust described snares laid by poachers as a ‘cruel threat to wildlife’

This is the moment vets flew to the rescue of an elephant calf after it became trapped in a snare laid by poachers in Kenya.

Footage shows the baby elephant unable to free its ankle from the tight loop of rope binding it to a stake in the ground in a remote area of the Tana River in the Ndera Community Conservancy.

 Dr Poghon and his team from the KWS/SWT Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit from the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust flew to the remote area by helicopter before cutting the elephant free to be reunited with its mother. 

The clip begins with the group of vets taking off as they track down the elephant calf, whose mother had been spotted helplessly watching from around 50 yards away.

An elephant calf was rescued by vets after becoming trapped in a snare laid by poachers in the Ndera Community Conservancy, Kenya

On arrival, the vets fire a dart filled with anaesthetic at the calf, to subdue the distressed animal.

As the calf slumps to the ground, the vets move in to assess its injuries. They swiftly cut the rope off and spray the wound in the elephants ankle and one on its ear with blue antiseptic spray.

After the team successfully free the elephant, it wakes up and happily bounds off in to a thicket of nearby trees.

Amie Alden, from Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, described snares laid by poachers as an ‘incredibly cruel threat to wildlife’.

Speaking about the rescue mission, she added: ‘Our Airwing is poised for situations like these, so the helicopter flew Dr Poghon to the scene, where the mother stood watching her baby around 50 metres away.

‘It remained a very real possibility that the mother and another nearby adult elephant, would move in, so our pilot circled overhead to monitor the situation and protect the ground team.

 Video footage showed the vets fire a dart filled with anaesthetic (pictured) at the calf, which fell to the floor and the team rushed in to begin freeing it

Dr Poghon and his team from the KWS/SWT Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit from the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust cut the elephant free (pictured) from the rope snare

‘Once the baby succumbed to the anaesthetic, the rope snare was easily cut away and fortunately we were able to provide help to spare this baby from a tragic end.

‘The team were left feeling a sense of accomplishment and were thankful to be in a position to right such wrongs.’

Simple snares are usually a noose made of wire, rope or cable and suspended around an animal’s path. As the snared animal fights to free itself, the noose tightens, cutting into the flesh and suffocating the animal if it is around the neck, or causing a deepening wound if around a foot. 

Snares usually set to catch smaller animals like impala, to feed the appetite for bushmeat, but large animals like elephants and rhinos can sometimes step into them.

The vets use a knife to free the elephant calf from the tight rope around its ankle, being careful not to injure the helpless animal in the process

Despite fears that the mother, who was standing 50 metres away, may move in and endanger the vets from the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, they were able to free the calf (pictured)

In December 2020, a quick-thinking wildlife rescue team saved an elephant’s life after it was spotted with a hunter’s snare attached to its leg in Zimbabwe.

The elephant, known as Martha, was seen with the looped piece of wire tightly cutting into her leg as she wandered the plains with her calf.

Catherine Norton, 58, a conservationist living in the country, was called to the Musango Island Safari Camp after the owner spotted Martha struggling to walk. 

Norton said she and her team had to immobilise the elephant, saying the creature would have surely died without intervention.

And in 2017, a lion in Zimbabwe was killed after being caught in a snare that reportedly cut into the animal’s stomach and tore open it’s neck.  

Kenya has cracked down on illegal poaching as it attempts to conserve vital wildlife, a move that has seen elephant populations begin to rise again.  

The vets also marked the elephant calf with blue paint on its ankle and ear after freeing it. A snare trap sees a loop of wire or rope suspended from tree by poachers to trap an animal

After the vets successfully free the elephant, it wakes up (pictured) and happily bounds off in to the thicket of nearby trees

According to the country’s first wildlife census, Kenya has a total of 36,280 elephants, a 12 per cent jump from the figures recorded in 2014, when poaching activity was at its highest.

‘Efforts to increase penalties on crimes related to threatened species appear to be bearing fruits,’ the report, which counted 30 species of animals and covered nearly 59 percent of Kenya’s land mass, said. 

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) warned in March that poaching and habitat destruction, particularly due to land conversion for agriculture, was devastating elephant numbers across Africa.

The population of African savanna elephants plunged by at least 60 percent in the last half century, prompting their reclassification as ‘endangered’ in the latest update to the IUCN’s ‘Red List’ of threatened species.

Catherine Norton (centre) was part of a wildlife team that helped to save an elephant at the Musango Island Safari Camp in Zimbabwe in December 2020 after it was spotted with a hunter’s snare attached to its leg

Across Africa, poachers kill around 100 elephants a day for their meat and tusks, with only around 400,000 wild elephants left, according to World Elephant Day.  

Experts have estimated that elephants could be extinct within the next decade due to illegal poaching and other factors. 

Kenya, like several of its African peers, is trying to strike a balance between protecting its wildlife while managing the dangers they pose when they raid human settlements in search of food and water.

‘(Wildlife) is our heritage, this is our children’s legacy and it is important for us to be able to know what we have in order to be better informed on policy and also on actions needed as we move forward,’ Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta said last month as he received the wildlife census.

‘It being a national heritage, it is something we should carry with pride’, he added. 

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