July 29th, 2009 by Jace Shoemaker-Galloway
Several years ago, orphaned baby Chhouk was found wandering alone in the forest without a foot. The endangered Asian baby elephant apparently lost his left front foot due to injuries sustained from a poacher’s snare.
Rescued in a remote area of northeastern Cambodia, the injured elephant was transported by truck to the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center in what turned out to be a very difficult and treacherous 26-hour journey. Besides being severely malnourished, his stump was badly infected and nearly 5 inches of infected tissue was removed. Balance issues and severe strain made walking on three feet nearly impossible.
According to the ICUN Red List, Asian elephants, Elephas maximus, are endangered. Due to habitat loss and poaching, it is estimated only a few hundred of the Asian elephants exist in the wild in Cambodia. Asian elephants can live up to 60 or 70 years.
Chhouk’s Long Journey
This video was taken in 2008, prior to Chhouk’s new foot:
After being cared for by specialists since his rescue, the young elephant has now been fitted with a prosthesis. The Cambodian School of Prosthetics and Orthotics (CSPO) headed the project to fit the baby with a brand new foot. Although the foot needed some tweaking and repairs along the way, Chhouk can now walk and run with the new design.
While many caring people were involved in the elephant’s rescue and recovery effort, Nick Marx, director of the Wildlife Alliance’s Cambodia Rescue Center, wrote, “However we must not forget the character and determination of the patient also. A lesser spirit might not have survived the ordeal.”
Due to his injuries, he can never be released back into the wild. Chhouk and an older female elephant at the facility, Lucky, are now the best of pals. In good health and as happy as a horse, Chhouk and Lucky spend their days frolicking in the pool and enjoying life.
Image Credit: Asian elephant and baby photo courtesy of SuperJew via Creative Commons license.
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