For the third time in two months, Gorilla Doctors Eddy Kambale, in partnership with Dr. Kizito Musubao, an ICCN veterinarian from Kahuzi-Biega National Park, was called upon to remove a snare from a sub-adult bull elephant inside Virunga National Park, DR Congo. Below is Dr. Eddy’s field report of the intervention and subsequent treatment.

Elephant Intervention: Field Report from Dr. Eddy Kambale, Head Veterinarian

Assisted by: Dr. Kizito Musubao, Veterinarian, Kahuzi-Biega National Park

Location: Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo

March 20 – 26, 2019

March 20 – Gorilla Doctors are alerted via email of an elephant in Virunga National Park with a snare who was not able to keep up with his herd. An intervention was requested.

 March 25 – Drs. Eddy and Kizito meet with the Park’s Deputy Chief of Security for an update on safety in the park and learn the elephant has not been seen for two days.

March 26 – The elephant is located and Drs. Eddy and Kizito join the park rangers who are closely monitoring the elephant. The team formed two groups: an intervention team led by Dr. Eddy and a protection team led by Rwimo, a park ranger officer. There were two large herds of elephants nearby, with a group of 46 approximately 1 km away, seriously complicating the intervention should the wounded elephant move towards the herd.

Fortunately, the elephant was laying down when they approached him with the dart gun and the veterinarians were able to come within 20 meters of him. Dr. Eddy successfully darted the elephant at 4:13PM, prompting the elephant to stand and move away approximately 400 meters before the anesthesia began taking effect around 4:20PM.

Dr. Eddy and team observed the elephant closely for clear signs of sedation: relaxed trunk, ears not waving with edges bent and snoring. The drug combination they used allowed the elephant to stay standing, instead of lying down. Confirming that he was heavily sedated, they approached him at 4:48PM and nudged him to test for a reaction. He stayed calm and kept breathing deeply, fully anesthetized. It took twelve (12) minutes to remove the snare, a large wire, deeply embedded in the elephant’s front right foot. Dr. Eddy then proceeded to clean the wound and administered long-acting antibiotics.

Upon completion of treatment, Dr. Kizito administered the anesthetic reversal agent and the elephant started waving his ears and trunk around 5:29PM and moving away at 5:35PM. It was agreed the park rangers would continue monitoring the elephant and by the next day, March 27th, they reported he had successfully rejoined his herd.

An additional note from Gorilla Doctors’ Executive Director, Dr. Kirsten Gilardi:

Gorilla Doctors’ mission is to conserve eastern gorillas through life-saving veterinary medicine and science using a One Health approach. One Health is a perspective that the health of animals, people and their environment are inextricably linked. So, for our Gorilla Doctors team, we don’t hesitate to step in and help in situations like these – elephants are an important part of the eastern gorilla landscape, helping to ecologically shape the gorillas’ forests. Furthermore, it would be unconscionable to not do anything we could to treat an elephant like this one who is suffering such a severe human-induced injury.