The Liwonde National Park is located just off of Lake Malombe in Malawi, Africa. The park is almost globally acclaimed as one of the greatest places in the world to see some of the world’s largest and most beautiful creatures in action. One particular animal, the elephant, brings tourists from all walks of life in order to revel in their presence.
Still, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t an ugly underbelly coursing through the park. Poachers have made a habit of intruding upon the land, injuring these wonderful creatures in the process. One elephant was found trapped on its side, a crude wire trap wrapped around its ankle, edging ever closer to death. What happened next will stun you and re-ignite your faith in humanity. Keep on reading to learn about the luckiest elephant in Africa and how a group of humans saved its life.
30. Liwonde National Park.
Located in Malawi, the Liwonde National Park was established in 1973. The park consists of more than 400 different birds and the majority of the largest animals in Africa: Elephants, Crocodiles, Buffalo, and Hippopotamus among others.
29. Protected Borders.
In order to protect all of the animals therein, the local Malawi government decided to install a 4,000ft fence around the borders of the park. This serves to help in efforts to reintroduce volatile, rare species of animals such as the rhino or the eland. The fence also serves as a clear warning to more nefarious groups: poachers.
28. The Scary World of Poaching.
Before we dive into the story of our lucky elephant and the heroic humans it is important to understand just how bad poaching is in Africa. Over a three year period over 100,000 African elephants will be killed by poachers who are seeking ivory. Central Africa has already lost close to 65% of their African Elephant population — according to the National Geographic.
27. Successful Conservation Efforts.
Despite the dark side of poaching, the conservation efforts at Liwonde National Park have been doing exceedingly well. The Liwonde elephant population has risen from 200 to 900 animals since the park’s inception. These numbers are huge for a species that is constantly being hunted by illegal poachers.
26. On to the Story.
With the tables set and the statistics in place we can get on with the story. What you are about to read is equal parts shocking and inspiring. You will find graphic images from here on out, you have been warned.
25. Started With a Snare Trap.
Taking down an elephant can be an extraordinarily difficult task. African elephants are true giants that can weigh in at up to 13,000 pounds. In order to take down these majestic creatures, poachers turn to these ugly and violent snare traps.
24. A Devastating Injury.
Snare traps are cruel devices which immediately cut off circulation to the foot of the elephant. Before long the creature can no longer move and simply falls onto its side. That is how our elephant was found – on the brink of death, a snare trap already undertaking the process of destroying its leg.
23. A Cruel Trap.
The elephant that our heroes found was hobbled to the point of being handicapped by the vicious trap. Imagine this steel wire digging through the soft, fatty flesh of these giant and docile creatures. It’s not fair or right. This is a far crueler form of hunting than we ever thought possible.
22. Immobile and Dying.
Immobilization is a death knell for animals, especially those stuck in the intense climate that the Liwonde National Park can feature. The elephant was found stuck on its side, incapable of moving for water or food. The wire trap had completely dug into its leg. Death was a sure thing and it was coming soon.
21. Veterinarian to the Rescue.
When the elephant was found everyone realized that time was of the essence. Amanda Salb, a Veterinarian at the Lilongwe Wildlife Trust, was quick to show up to the scene. She was joked by Derek Macpherson, a member of the Cluny Wildlife Trust. Here we see the two doctors inserting an IV line into the elephant in order to monitor the vital signs of the beautiful creature. Anesthesia is coming soon.
20. Specialized Elephant Tranquilizer.
In order to keep the elephant docile while they perform their work, the team has to turn to a powerful tranquilizer. Elephant tranquilizers are so powerful that they can kill human beings.
19. The Tranquilizer is Deployed.
Amanda has the tranquilizer quickly inserted. She has to make an educated guess as to the size of the elephant in order to give the right dosage. She guesses right and soon the injured young elephant is sleeping. Help is on the way, big guy.
18. Removing the Trap.
Things have to get worse before they can get better. Dr. Salb works on getting the wire trap removed which ends up showcasing just how deep the damage is. It takes impressive strength to unwind the wire that has trapped this giant creature. A helper is waiting nearby with disinfectant in order to attend to the wound.
17. The Grizzly Remnants.
Here we see what is left of the snare after it has been chopped away and unwound from the elephant’s ankle. Though wire snares are typically aimed at smaller creatures, they do a disgusting amount of damage to larger animals such as elephants and rhinos. Studies show that 1,000 wire snares can maim or kill upwards of 18,250 animals per year.
16. Addressing the Infection.
Twisted steel wire left on the ground in a park is not very clear, to say the least. It is immediately clear to the veterinarians that the wound is infected and in desperate need of addressing. The young elephant was in incredible pain when they stumbled upon it. Now they have to disinfect the wound while the animal is still passed out.
15. An Emaciated Creature.
The elephant has seen its wound quickly treated but there is still so much more to do. You can tell from this angle that the elephant has already lost a significant amount of weight. Despite the depth of the wound, Dr. Salb proudly proclaims that the wire is completely gone. Work continues.
14. Wildlife Veterinarians.
At this point in time, we want to take a moment to give a heartfelt thanks to all of those wildlife veterinarians who do the impossible day in and day out. This is a wildly dangerous yet rewarding profession. Without these brave wildlife vets, we would be without so many amazing animals.
13. Monitoring the Animal.
With topical treatment done we now see the Park Rangers watching over the young elephant. This is more than a one-person job as both the African Park and the Rhino Protection Team work together for this job. An injured elephant with ivory tusks is quite the target, especially when it cannot defend itself.
12. Amanda Collects Data.
It’s hard to imagine but this has become such a routine job for Dr. Amanda Salb. Here she takes measurements for her records. These incidents occur all over Africa and many of them don’t end nearly as happy as this story will.
11. Attaching a Radio Collar.
While initial treatment was a success, it isn’t the end of the story. The team will have to continually monitor the juvenile elephant until they are sure that it is completely in the clear. This radio collar allows for African Park Scouts to track to the creature and keep an eye on it.
10. A Few Days Later.
Looking at the state of the creature’s injury it can be hard to believe that the elephant survived. Still, a few days later the Lilongwe Wildlife Trust captures the juvenile elephant a watering hole. Apparently it was quick to rejoin the herd and he seemed happy and alert. You can still see that the front left paw on the elephant is swollen.
9. The Herd.
While our young elephant seems to have escaped its ordeal with nothing more than a scar and some leg damage, we’re sure that the creature won’t forget it. Elephants are intensely bright creatures and you can be darn sure that they don’t forget the effects that a wire trap have had on them.
8. Operation Safe Haven.
As we remarked above: poaching for elephants is an incredibly serious problem. If left unchecked we could see the eventual extinction of the African Elephant. That is why Operation Safe Haven was put into effect. Since 2014 this team of operatives have removed over 10,000 traps from the park while arresting 76 illegal poachers.
7. 10,000 of These Monsters.
The fact that 10,000 of these disgusting traps have been removed is inspiring but it also makes you wonder: how many are left? The poachers will always have the advantage because they do not play by the rules. We can only hope that the team stays focused and funded.
6. In the Name of Ivory.
Poachers are driven by their desire for acquiring ivory. Ivory is harvested from both elephants and rhino — the two primary big animals who are affected by these wire traps. Often times these ivory tusks are shipped off for sale in Asia. It’s a booming, brutal, and disgusting industry.
5. A Brutal Industry.
Over the past thirty years roughly 800,000 elephants have been killed for their tusks. This makes elephant poaching one of the largest illegal trades in the world which should throw into sharp relief how serious it is. We’re talking about billions of dollars trading hands over this period.
4. Raising Awareness.
While most people understand the value of ivory they don’t understand the true cost of the illegal poaching. That is why World Elephant Day was implemented — every August 12th. The goal is to raise awareness about the illicit and immoral trade in hopes of making a difference.
3. Funding Liwonde Game Reserve.
Believe it or not, places like Liwonde regularly struggle to get enough funding to keep their reserve open. That is why it is so essential that more people understand the plight of the majestic creatures that call these preserves their home. Keeping these parks funded is a matter of life and death, extinction and preservation.
2. Majestic Creatures.
The greed of humanity has been a huge player in the extinction of major creatures. The fact that we now struggle to protect the animals we’ve, ourselves, endangered is just beyond the pale. These intelligent animals deserve a shot at life.
1. Consider Visiting Liwonde.
If this story has made an impact on you then perhaps consider visiting Liwonde National Park. Your patronage helps keep the park operational while providing protective services to some of the most wonderful animals in the world. If nothing else: spread the word and protect the elephants!