WARNING - GRAPHIC IMAGES: Hope turned to heartbreak after a rescued baby elephant which lost half of its trunk in a snare was found dead on Tuesday.
The one-year-old poaching victim was spotted several weeks ago by locals in Indonesia’s Aceh province, but searches for the animal proved unsuccessful until Sunday.
With the Sumatran elephant population dwindling to no more than 2800 individuals, the government’s conservation agency was determined to save her.
Once in care, images were sent to consulting veterinarian Dr Christopher Stremme who worked alongside a dedicated team to create a treatment plan.
Dr Stremme told Yahoo News that despite her emaciated state and the onset of septicaemia, he believed she had a good chance of survival following what appeared to be a successful operation.
“The lower part of the trunk that was snared off had to be amputated as the entire tissue was completely necrotic,” he said.
“So there was no chance at all to secure the trunk, which is dramatic for an elephant, but it’s something that an elephant can survive.
“I was quite optimistic.”
Following the operation on Monday, the young female was eating and defecating normally.
However in a tragic turn of events, she died overnight.
Despite a post mortem, her cause of death is yet to be determined, and tissue samples have been sent off for analysis, with septicaemia or stress induced myopathy possible causes.
Elephant which lost leg ‘doing quite well’
Having worked with elephants in Indonesia for the past 18 years, Dr Stremme, an associate lecturer with the veterinary faculty at Syiah Kula University in Banda Aceh, often sees elephants injured by poachers.
While badly injured elephants cannot be released, they can often lead successful lives in care.
Although it’s more common for the animals to suffer leg injuries from snares, another young elephant with a severed trunk was operated on around three years ago and survived.
“Last year we had a calf where the situation was very, very bad, almost the entire front foot was snared off, and it had cut already through the joint,” he said.
“I was very pessimistic about that animal, but it survived and is in quite good condition now, so sometimes things go exactly the other way around.”
Monkeys, birds and leopards all victims of poaching in Indonesia
Poaching in Sumatra continues to be a serious issue impacting wildlife, despite efforts by government to combat the smugglers.
Thirty-nine baby monkeys, 23 adult monkeys, four leopards and a number of other rescued animals and birds are currently housed at the Sumatra Wildlife Center.
Founded by Jakarta Animal Aid Network’s Femke den Hass, the sanctuary works with government to locate smuggled animals and provide a pathway for their release.
Despite efforts to combat the issue by quarantine officials and the Ministry of Forestry and Environment, she says the rescue numbers continue to be “quite overwhelming”, with Ms den Hass estimating this year they have rescued 230 mammals alone.
While there are many small local wildlife charities working on the ground, she believes the larger organisations are seldom seen in the field.
This year, Ms den Haas has opened Ellis Park, a facility to care for unreleasable animals, which is named after Australian musician Warren Ellis.
She has also helped establish the country’s first canine unit solely dedicated to detecting smuggled wildlife, but financing rescues continues to be a burden.
“I think international support is needed to really protect Indonesia's last elephants and last tigers,” she told Yahoo News.
“We hope that we can expand the canine unit and also work more in the fields, but it's all about support."
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