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Watch: A Young Thee-Legged Elephant in Wild South Africa

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As a qualified Animal Scientist and vet student, I am always passionate about learning more about all animals. I went into the Kruger Park on a holiday and witnessed a young elephant with three legs keep up with their herd. I couldn’t help but dive into this case and share the video with all of you. 

How Did This Elephant Lose its Leg?

It is believed this elephant lost the lower part of its hind leg from a snare. A snare is a set of cabling and wire. In this case, given it was an elephant, I tend to think it was a thick set of cables. 

Young elephant with three legs. The unfortunate victim of a snare.

The young elephant could’ve gotten trapped, and in pulling to get free, the cable either ripped the lower part of the leg off or the snare created a tourniquet around the leg, and when the elephant broke free, this piece remained, which then over time caused the lower part of the leg to ‘die off’. 

Another theory is the mother of this calf wound left her young behind and pulled them free, which resulted in an amputation of the leg. 

Why Do People Set Snares?

Firstly, we need to acknowledge that these areas have many poor communities that experience poverty daily. Snaring animals can provide food for them, including hares, buck, antelope, warthog, bush pigs, and even elephants. Snaring elephants also have the possibility of harvesting ivory, which can be traded for money. 

Elephants cover vast distances and are often attracted to agricultural areas. These villages often have a small communal farm, and to protect their crops and animals, they set snares in the surrounding areas. More often than we would like, elephants also get their trunk stuck in smaller snares, which can lead to them losing part of the trunk.

The Elephant In This Story

The brutality of snaring animals and the pain it causes is extremely difficult to witness. What blows my mind about this case is that a young elephant that was the victim of snares can roam with their herd and be protected by the group. 

One can only hope this continues. Being more vulnerable than the rest of the herd is dangerous in the wild, with predators picking on the weak or more vulnerable. 


YouTube video

What Is Being Done to Stop This?

Incredible private non-profit organizations and national park organizations attend to animals caught in snares. Rangers often report these cases, as the national parks are vast spaces of land, and a team goes in with a veterinarian, helicopter, and support team to tend to the suffering animal. There are large anti-poaching units that monitor areas and catch perpetrators. 

Game parks, when fenced, try to ensure their fencing is of the correct specifications to keep animals away from communities. 

Elephant walking (hobbling) through the bush on three legs.

Wrapping it Up

This situation is more complex than meets the eye, and, therefore, solutions have to address not only the crime but the reasons behind it. Educating communities and assisting upliftment in the areas could help them overcome poverty and remove the need to catch their food. 

The story of the three-legged elephant shows one of resilience and the strength of the bond between a young elephant and its herd. We have so much to learn from these giant animals and the family structure they value. 

If you enjoyed reading this article, learn more about African wildlife in the articles below

Tourist Receives Cuddles From Baby Elephant

All About African Bush Elephants

Rangers Rescue Elephants Stuck In Mud

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