Harare - Dedicated wildlife vets working in remote northern Zimbabwe have removed a painful snare that had been embedded in an elephant's leg for the past two years.
In a story showing the terrible damage snares can cause, the Wildlife Conflict Management Chirundu Elephant Programme saw the bull with a festering wound to his front right leg last Thursday, the group said in a post to Facebook. They knew he was the same bull, probably around 35 years old, they had seen with a snare two years ago.
"To see him suffering like that was awful," an official with the programme told News24 in a telephone interview.
The group put out an appeal "for anyone that can help in some way".
Wildlife veterinary organisation AWARE Trust Zimbabwe responded immediately - even though it turned out they would be working without a helicopter.
Locating the elephant, who knew he was being stalked, on foot in the thick bush, darting him and then keeping him in sight for the eight to 10 minutes it took for the drugs to work was an "apprehensive" business, according to AWARE's account of the operation.
The elephant fell in an awkward position and one of the vets had to "frantically" chainsaw through dense mopane wood to clear a bed for him.
The 12-gauge steel wire snare, which had sunk 10 cm deep into his leg, was finally removed by the vet working under the lights of a Land Rover.
"I'm overwhelmed with the response and how quickly everything happened," the Chirundu Elephant Programme official told News24. "It was wonderful National Parks gave us the go-ahead so quickly." A National Parks ranger and members of the Chirundu Elephant Programme participated in Saturday's mission.
The official said the elephant had not been seen near the town since the operation. "We've tracked his tracks. He's definitely walking now."
Vet Lisa Marabini confirmed on Facebook the elephant had been fitted with an ultra long-acting injectable antibiotic as well as antibiotic-impregnated beads inserted into the wound for sustained release.
The elephant had circular white patches on its back, a likely sign of a compromised immune system.
"It just brings to light how bad snaring can be," the Chirundu Elephant Management Programme official said.
The group has now suggested nicknaming the bull "Lucky".