Herd helps baby elephant caught in snare

Snared baby elephant drags 13 feet of wire behind it. Photo by Amy Attenborough courtesy of Londolozi Game Reserve

Amy Attenborough, a wildlife guide at the Londolozi Game Reserve in South Africa, was taking an evening game drive when she came across a heart-wrenching sight of a baby elephant caught in a poacher's wire snare.

The wire was cutting into its hind leg, from which dragged 13 feet of wire. The baby elephant apparently had pulled the snare free from its anchor.

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Wire snare dug into leg of baby elephant. Photo by Amy Attenborough courtesy of Londolozi Game Reserve

Attenborough and Simon Smit decided they'd follow the baby elephant the next morning so when the veterinarian and helicopter arrived, they would be able to locate the snared elephant.

"What ensued was the most incredible and touching four hours of elephant viewing I have ever experienced," Attenborough wrote on her blog.

The herd cared for and nurtured the younger elephant, and was quite happy to have her and Smit tag along, Attenborough noted.

"We watched as the wire would snag on trees and the elephant would become trapped, unable to move any farther," she wrote. "No sooner would this have happened than another member would arrive, gently lift and release the wire, remove any attached debris, and sometimes even carefully carry the wire on its trunk for a while.

"Even the tiniest elephants in the group, knew that something was awry and would sprint next to the wire, desperately trying to pry loose branches that had become entangled in it as it dragged through the bush."

baby elephant snare

Even the tiniest elephants in the group knew that something was awry. Photo by Amy Attenborough courtesy of Londolozi Game Reserve

The baby elephant would sporadically stop to throw water or sand onto the wound or scratch it against a tree to relieve the irritation. Eventually the herd crossed over the northwestern boundary of the Londolozi Game Reserve, and Attenborough and Smit were unable to follow the animals and watch the rescuers remove the snare.

But Attenborough spoke to Edwin Pierce, the northern section ranger and ecologist for the Sabi Sands Wildtuin, to get the details of the successful rescue.

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Baby elephant attempts to treat its wound with dirt. Photo by Amy Attenborough courtesy of Londolozi Game Reserve

When the helicopter landed, the herd separated. But the mother came back to investigate. She didn't charge or become aggressive with the rescuers, as one might expect.

"It was almost as if she understood that they were attempting to help and left the team to do so," Pierce told Attenborough.

Pierce said the intervention came just in time otherwise the baby elephant would have lost its foot. Fortunately, there was no tendon damage and the vet believes the baby elephant will make a full recovery.

Baby elephant snare

Baby elephant gets stopped by snare catching on trees and snags. Photo by Amy Attenborough courtesy of Londolozi Game Reserve

elephant snare

Other elephants would carry the end of the snare. Photo by Amy Attenborough courtesy of Londolozi Game Reserve

Once the baby woke up, the herd reunited and walked off together, hopefully to live happily ever after.

"Despite not being able to see the snare being removed," Attenborough wrote in conclusion, "that really was a morning that I will treasure and remember because it gave us a unique window into the tight social bond and incredible tenderness of a herd, and showed us the feistiness and resilience inherent in that one very special little elephant."

h/t to The Dodo

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