Sunday, November 6, 2011

Best foot forward: Poaching victim elephant walks again thanks to jumbo false leg


Saved: Chhouk was in serious trouble when he caught his foot in a trap set by poachers in the jungle

Chhouk, now five years old, was found in the jungle of Cambodia in 2007 with his left front foot stuck in a trap.

When this young elephant caught his leg in a poacher's trap, few would have held out much hope that he would survive for long.

But four years later, Chhouk is thriving - even if adolescence is bringing on unpredictable mood swings.

The change in the elephant's fortune is down to his hi-tech prosthetic leg, installed by experts who'd previously worked with the (human) victims of landmines.

Innovative: The five-year-old elephant now boasts a prosthetic foot made of resin to help him walk

Although he was eventually rescued and taken to a wildlife sanctuary, he had lost around seven inches of his leg.

Nick Marx, director of wildlife rescue at the Wildlife Alliance, took Chhouk to the Cambodian School of Prosthetics and Orthotics, whose doctors were used to treating victims of the unrest which has plagued South-East Asia.

Cleaning: The limb must be washed daily, a process which Chhouk has come to accept

'They'd never tried anything on this scale before,' Mr Marx told NBC.

However, the project was a success, and Chhouk is now on his fourth false leg, having outgrown the previous three.

'It's a kind of plastic resin,' according to Mr Marx. 'The inside is quite soft, and the outside is very hard.'

The foot must be cleaned daily, but Chhouk seems happy to accept this procedure, despite the fact that as he comes into maturity his mood has become increasingly volatile.

Expertise: The prosthesis was made by doctors more used to treating the victims of landmines and other weaponry

Walking: Although Chhouk is now thriving at the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre, he will never be able to return to the wild

He would not be able to survive in the wild, and so is resident at the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre, set up by the Cambodian capital outside the country's capital city, Phnom Penh.

The illegal wildlife trade of which Chhouk was a victim is worth at least £3billion worldwide, and could be worth much more.

China is the most popular destination for poached animals, where they end up as as exotic meals or ingredients in traditional medicine, but they are also exploited in the U.S. as exotic pets.

source: dailymail

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