Despite being subjected to such cruelty, the gentle giant decided to trust humans to help him.
Animals are smarter than we think. In 2016, an elephant in Zimbabwe had been walking around for a few weeks with a gunshot wound on his forehead. According to The Dodo, the gentle giant knew it had to receive medical assistance or the wound could cause him more trouble. The elephant, fondly known as Pretty Boy, approached veterinarians from Animal and Wildlife Area Research and Rehabilitation Trust (AWARE), a wildlife conservation organization in Zimbabwe. He had no idea the vets were there to treat his wound, but he didn't want to risk not being treated.
Being vets, they figured they'd have to figure a way to get to Pretty boy because elephants tend to keep to themselves when injured, but they were so surprised when the elephant walked up to them for a consultation. "Pretty Boy" heard they'd arrived in Mana Pools he made himself available for examination within half an hour, coming right up to their car. An extremely gentle and relaxed bull, the vets managed to get a good look at what immediately became apparent was a hole going into his forehead, AWARE shared on Facebook. Pretty Boy was then tranquilized and taken in for an x-ray which showed that there was a deformed bullet lodged inside his head.
He was likely shot at several centimeters too high for a "kill shot", and the bullet glanced off his skull causing a depression fracture of the bones in his sinuses. The bullet is lodged under his skin some 5cm away from the wound, but because of the difficulty of taking several Xray angles on a skull that big, it could not be sufficiently triangulated to definitively locate it, continued the post. "Bullets are usually sterile when they penetrate tissue as they generate so much heat, so if they don't hit a vital structure they can often be left," Dr. Lisa Marabini, director of AWARE said. Basically, this is what happened to Pretty Boy.
Moreover, his wound was infected. "It was essential to remove the dead pieces of the bone so that the body could continue to heal the infection," Marabini said. She then added that whoever shot the elephant must have aimed for his heart, but missed, because he had an abscess on his shoulder from another bullet. "We think he was shot outside the park and came into the park for refuge," she said. "Whether it was a poacher or a hunt gone wrong, we can only speculate." An old scar near his spine that the vets spotted suggests he was shot at in the past as well. Despite such acts of cruelty by people, he was still so gentle and loving to those who offered to help him.
"I never usually feel totally comfortable getting very close to a wild elephant," she said. "But he literally emanated serenity. There were no aggressive vibes coming from him whatsoever." The vets did face a small complication while removing the bullet. They say grey pus started to ooze out of the wound, something they'd never seen before. They removed several black foul-smelling necrotic fragments of bone before thoroughly cleaning and flushing the wound. Pretty Boy was given ultra-long acting anti-biotics and parasiticides. The vets were worried his weak back might interfere with him getting to his feet after reversal, but he recovered uneventfully and then lay his head against a tree and dozed for half an hour.
The following day he was feeling much happier and very relaxed. He even allowed the vets to get in close for an assessment. Marabini said that, while it will take Pretty Boy some time to heal, he now has a fighting chance. "He came 5 centimeters close to death," Marabini told Sky News. "He was lucky." Elephants in Mana Pools National Park have long been the targets of poachers who kill the majestic animals for their ivory. Hunting areas exist near the park. Also, it is worth noting that several species of elephants are on the brink of extinction, and it's high time we all get together to do something.