When one of Kenya’s oldest and biggest bull elephants was wounded by a spear he knew exactly what to do.
Tim, as he is known, made his way through Amboseli National Park to a camp of conservationists where he knew he would be helped.
David Bates was counting buffalo calves last month when word reached him that the 47-year-old tusker – an elephant with tusks weighing at least 100lb each – was headed his way.
“I was excited to see him,” he told The Nation. “But then, as he drew closer to us, we realised that something was wrong.
“Protruding from his head was a spear, and on his forehead was a huge bleeding wound. It appears it was hit with a large rock.”
It was dark by the time a vet from the Kenya Wildlife Service arrived so they tracked Tim through the night until it was light.
A tranquiliser dart was used to knock out Tim and inspect the wound.
“To all our relief, the spear wasn’t poisoned, and had gone through the ear and merely scratched the skin underneath,” said the Big Life Foundation. “Within five minutes, Tim was up and heading back to the swamps in the middle of Amboseli.”
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust provided an update this week and reported that they thought Tim had been wounded not by poachers, but people living near the park as human settlements encroach closer and closer on to elephants’ natural habitat.
“To everybody’s relief the injury was not as bad as first feared, with the spear injuring his ear and not embedded in his head,” said the trust. “Tim is expected to make a 100% recovery. This is not believed to be an attempted poaching incident, but rather conflict with humans!”
It is not the first time Tim has needed human help.
In 2014, he was spotted limping around the park. He had been speared in the rump and the wound turned septic.
Vets packed the infected with green clay – which has antibacterial properties – and he soon recovered.
There remain only 470,000 African elephants in the wild, and poachers are thought to kill more than are born every year, sending their numbers ever lower.