In the course of his work, Gary is quite often called upon to rescue animals trapped in mud. Whilst drinking and bathing, elephants churn up tons of soil, which, when the water recedes, leaves black, sticky sludge in the bottom of the pan – a potential death trap for young animals searching for a drink or to play in the mud. We asked Gary how he goes about rescuing such animals, and this is what he said:
“The first thing we do is try to establish the condition of the animal as sometimes if it’s too far gone it’s just a case of removing the body so that it does not contaminate the pan.
“We offer it some water, if it is still in reasonable condition it will invariably drink. Once the animal does this we work on getting it out.
“We try to get a chain over the shoulder and through the other side under the foreleg so that we pull on the sternum and don’t abrade the skin or break any ribs. We have the chain very loose and lock it with a bolt so that it can’t pull too tight.
“This takes some time as we are working in mud that can get humans stuck too. It usually entails crawling over the animal – a tricky business, as a live beast can easily hurt someone badly.
“When we have the chain in place we pull slowly to ease it out of the mud and then drag it clear on its side to get it out totally.
“Once free we douse it with water to help revive it.”
Gary and his helper, Patrick, together with some Park’s employees from Game Water, recently found another elephant calf stuck fast. Gary tells the story:
“We went to refuel and check the line of engines from Main Camp to Manga 1 which was reported to have run out of fuel. We checked Caterpillar, Dopi and Jambile and as per normal for this time of year there was a little pickle stuck in mud at Jambile pan.
“Patrick took it some water and it immediately started to drink – always a good sign. It was pretty feisty but there was no way to get the vehicle to a position to pull it out of the mud.
“Undaunted as it was a very small calf, we decided to try to pull it out by hand. We put ropes around it and got it out without any trouble.
“Things then got pretty exciting as once free the calf started to follow us, and we scattered in different directions. As fast as we ran it gave chase. Imagine the scenario – a whole bunch of guys who have done this many times being chased by an ellie not much bigger than a warthog.
“Patrick was covered in mud so he could not use his camera and the senior game water employee was taking pics up to the point when we all took off, and then he was laughing so hard he was incapable of operating the camera.
“This story has a happy twist as the little ellie walked up to a herd that was standing in the shade not far off. He was still with them an hour later when we returned from re-fuelling Manga 1, so we believe he is alive and well. If he did not belong to the herd the matriarch would have sent him packing.
“A point of interest to note is the last ellie we pulled out of there was squealing blue murder and although we had other elephant drinking all around us, not one showed any sign of aggression towards us. Some were not much further than 40meters from us including lots of cows and calves. I think these animals are way more intelligent than we give them credit for.”
Bravo Gary, Patrick and their helpers – keep up the sterling work.