4 min read

Giant Elephant 'Tuskers' Attacked By Poachers, Get Back Up Again

<p> David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust </p>

Three of Africa's iconic "tuskers," or male elephants with enormous tusks, are roaming free once again after getting shot with poison arrows.

Tuskers have genes that make their tusks as long as 6 feet - putting them at risk for poaching attacks. With just 100 of them left in Africa, the loss of just one can be disastrous. Thankfully, rescuers stepped in to save these poaching victims.

A pilot doing a routine aerial surveillance flight over the Tsavo West National Park in Kenya spotted three tuskers injured on the savannah below earlier this month. He quickly called up Kenya Wildlife Service veterinarian Dr. Jeremiah Poghon, who flew out to the site to see the animals felled by poachers' poison darts. Over 48 hours, Poghon and his team located and treated all three of the massive mammals.(David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust)

Poghorn treated two tuskers for their flesh wounds from the arrows and removed an arrow from a third tusker's hind leg. All three of the giants - 3 percent of the tuskers remaining in Africa - got up to roam the savanna. They are expected to fully recover.

(David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust)

Tuskers' tusks often reach all the way to the ground, and can weigh upwards of 100 pounds.

Many poachers use spears and poison arrows to kill elephants because they are more difficult to trace, and they're quieter and cheaper than guns. Often using arrows coated in a toxin found in the acocanthera shrub, poachers will dart an elephant and then follow him (sometimes for hours) until he dies, after which they can easily take his tusks. In the case of the three tuskers, poachers may have been lurking when the rescuers arrived.

Not all tuskers are so lucky. Last June, an iconic elephant named Satao was slaughtered for his massive tusks by a poison arrow. While conservationists around the world mourned the well-known elephant's death, many called for better anti-poaching enforcement and an end to the demand for illegal ivory.

(David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust)