Watch Wild Elephant Awaken After Being Saved From Poison Arrow

(c) Kristin Davis
Actress and philanthropist Kristin Davis joined the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in 2009, after she traveled to Kenya to go on safari but instead found herself trekking into the wilderness to save an orphaned baby elephant. (Photo courtesy Kristin Davis)

By Kristin Davis

The last time I was in Kenya, flying in one of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s (DSWT) aerial surveillance airplanes, I was on the way to see one of the most tragic sights I’ve ever seen in my life.

Two massive elephants had been poached near the Tiva River, in Tsavo National Park. Like all poaching victims, their deaths had been torturous.

The poachers had climbed up the electrical tower nearby and cut thick cable from it. Then they’d set up wire snares using the cable. They tied one snare around two huge trees, and when a male elephant had walked in, his foot had been trapped.

The massive elephant was left circling the tree endlessly trying to free himself, until he became so weak that that poachers could move in and hack the tusks off his face. The circle of destruction around the tree presented a terrible picture of the end of this glorious creature’s life.

Sadder still was the coffee pot and the ashes of a fire just out of reach of the elephant’s circle of distress. There, the poachers had sat, drinking coffee and watching, waiting until they could plunder his ivory and hack away at his tusks.

The scene of cruel deaths like his has haunted me in the years since.

Now it’s early 2015, and I’m in Kenya again, visiting the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. To blunt the ongoing poaching threat, the trust, working with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), has mobilized nine Anti-Poaching Teams. Air support has been expanded to include a helicopter to work with a rapid response rescue team.

I was lucky to go out on a KWS/DSWT mission to treat a huge bull, probably around 40 years old. This bull had been seen during their aerial surveillance patrol with a large abscess on his side.

We flew to where the elephant had last been seen, and with the help of one of our spotter planes, we found him.

With air support, the ground team encouraged the mighty elephant to move to a clear spot where he could be darted. The logistics of each vet operation are different and fluid. All participants need to communicate and respond quickly.

It’s incredibly impressive that the teams are able to find wounded elephants, treat them fast, and get out of the way before the elephant is revived. All this action happens in 100-degree heat.

The abscess on the lower part of the elephant’s side was as big as me, if I curled into a ball. A tiny incision was made, and KWS’s Dr. Michael Njoroge removed the rotted tissue. Lodged in the necrotic flesh was an arrow head tipped with poison.

This elephant would have faced certain slow death if he’d not been found and treated.

As we were leaving the scene in the helicopter, I was able to film the big bull waking up. After some effort, he got to his feet and turned to face us, lifting his trunk as if to say, “Go away and stop bothering me!” Or maybe, ” Thank you.”

VIDEO: See elephant’s gesture following its treatment.

We will never know, and it doesn’t matter. That elephant will live on in the wild, at least for now.

The poaching continues—the very next day Dr. Njoroge successfully treated a similar case—but now we have the tools to fight back to save these majestic creatures.

I was filled with pride and gratitude as we flew away from the recovering elephant. I dream of a day when we won’t need a rapid response aerial team to help the elephants. But in the meantime I’m privileged to be a part of the work of the DSWT and KWS.

And I’m thankful to be able to share an uplifiting story because of the support we’ve gotten from so many people in fighting for the future of elephants. We will fight for them every day until the world puts a stop to the demand for ivory.

An active philanthropist, Kristin Davis has had the honor of dedicating her time and efforts to serving as a Patron to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Davis joined the trust in 2009, after she traveled to Kenya to go on safari but instead found herself trekking into the wilderness to save an orphaned baby elephant. After the trust was alerted, the baby elephant was transported to the nursery. Davis is dedicated to the mission to give orphaned elephants a chance to heal, thrive, and eventually be introduced back into the wild—and to protect their habitat and ecosystem. She is also dedicated to inspiring change and creating awareness to stop the illegal poaching for ivory through campaigning and as Executive Producer of a new conservation film, Gardeners of Eden.

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  1. Beeg Noyz
    September 21, 2015, 5:22 am

    Animal cannot speak , but surely can express gratitude very vividly, Very moving video

  2. David Christen
    Toronto, CANADA
    March 21, 2015, 5:12 pm

    Thank you so very much! You guys are rock stars and making a HUGE difference in the world!
    The bull definitely saluted you!

  3. Morgan
    Preston MN.
    February 14, 2015, 10:52 pm

    He must have some deepreat anmal guts to save a great animal. P.S There my favorite animal! 😉

  4. evert
    February 14, 2015, 9:52 am

    It’s like he say thanks.
    Godbles the people doing good job

  5. K.V.Muralidharan
    February 13, 2015, 8:54 am

    A great work. Thanks for sharing.Three cheers to your dedication

  6. Harlan
    new york
    February 12, 2015, 9:40 am

    Elephants will survive and thrive , little by little we are getting strong in order to keep the species safe , we must keep the good work and united we all can restore the natural world !
    good vibes to wildlife .

  7. Tina Muyle
    Oostende, Belgium
    February 12, 2015, 8:17 am

    I am so happy that there are people like you all, who rescued this beautifull animal. There are no words enough to say thank you!! Wish it was not needed for you to do this, wish people would not hurt these animals, but these are just wishes; And as long as there are humans, these animals will always be in danger. But then there are some great humans like you all to save them when you can!!! Thank God for people like you all!!!!

  8. Jon Welch
    February 11, 2015, 11:16 pm

    If any thing he was saying LEAVE ME THE ( F ) ALONE

  9. Remi Zagari
    February 11, 2015, 10:01 am

    Poor honey

  10. Lisa J
    Atlanta, GA USA
    February 10, 2015, 10:10 pm

    Amazing! Elephants are intelligent creatures and this bull was most definitely gracious! So am I!

  11. Lori
    February 10, 2015, 4:19 pm

    Wow, she actually said Thank You. Thank you for saving her.

  12. Mattana
    New Zealand
    February 10, 2015, 3:39 pm

    I do believe that he said “Thank you Thank you”

  13. T-Hoy
    February 10, 2015, 3:37 pm

    Did it occur to anyone that sticking around to see the animal wake up is doing irreparable harm? This damage was caused by people, familiarizing the elephant with people just encourages it to ignore them, leading to a poisoned dart in the side…

  14. Katrina Emory
    Boston, MA
    February 10, 2015, 3:30 pm

    thank u for doing that

  15. Janis Specht
    Foley, AL - USA
    February 10, 2015, 3:17 pm

    My God , I don’t understand how cruel, sick, demented , unfeeling human beings can torture and kill such beautiful innocent animals and live with themselves. How Horrible!!!!

  16. Neesha Santoo
    Trinidad and Tobago
    February 10, 2015, 2:54 pm

    He clearly said god blessings be unto you and thank you!

  17. Carol murray
    Brazoria Taxas
    February 10, 2015, 1:24 pm

    Thank God for people like ya,ll. Thank you all!

  18. Jose
    February 10, 2015, 1:24 pm

    Son seres vivos tan hermosos pero hay que acabar con tanta maldad y erradicar de una vez por toda la compra del Marfil, porque de ahí es que comienza todo, si no lo compran no hay matanza de Elefantes.

  19. Prakash Nayak
    Mumbai India
    February 10, 2015, 12:36 pm

    That was positively a Huge “THANK YOU” from the Maharaj.
    Bless you guys. Thank you.

  20. Prakash Nayak
    Mumbai, India
    February 10, 2015, 12:34 pm

    That was definitely a Huge “THANK YOU” to you guys. And a BIG Thank You from me too. You were absolutely great, I salute you.

  21. Dalal
    February 10, 2015, 11:08 am

    Thank you for sharing this video.
    Thank you for helping these wonderful animals.

  22. Tumi Ngema
    February 10, 2015, 11:08 am

    you guys are Super Heroes, earths humble guide…….. I remain humble

  23. Charles Elam
    United States
    February 10, 2015, 9:06 am

    The poachers should be hunted down and punished to the fullest extent of the law. I applaud your efforts to protect these beautiful creatures.

  24. Jaime
    London, Ontario
    February 10, 2015, 8:50 am

    No doubt about it. That elephant was definitely saying thank-you. And from the rest of us, thank-you, as well!

  25. S.Vaidyanathan
    February 10, 2015, 8:03 am

    Thanks for saving such a innocent animal from poaching

  26. Apple
    February 10, 2015, 8:01 am

    I wish that the elephant can have a good life.

  27. Shaikha Al Falasi
    February 10, 2015, 7:24 am

    yes he is a very strong elephant indeed , i wish that it is possible to have an elephant as a pet

  28. Theresa McNair
    February 10, 2015, 7:07 am

    Thank you for sharing this and for the wonderful work you do. It was amazing seeing the gratitude of the bull elephant. Please keep up the great work you all do.

  29. Jan Karreman
    February 10, 2015, 5:24 am

    I wish I could make a difference myself. Thx for doing so much for these animals. They are creatures as humans and need to be protected. Nature is so beautiful and only cruel people don’t like this. I support all the way

  30. Olu Ogah
    Lagos Nigeria
    February 10, 2015, 4:43 am

    You guy’s rocks DSWT.

  31. yandrie vacacela
    February 10, 2015, 4:38 am

    Amazing efort to save this bull elephant . At the End he Said Thanks!!! by noding this head towards you! Amzing video . Tnx 4 Sharing…

  32. Olu Ogah
    Lagos Nigeria
    February 10, 2015, 4:36 am

    You guys rocks! Thank you.

  33. A Borrego
    San Elizario, Texas USA
    February 10, 2015, 3:56 am

    That was definitely a “Thank You”

  34. Junaid Afridi
    mumbai. india
    February 10, 2015, 1:53 am

    you guys are doing an amazing job, all the hard work sweat is nothing when you get such an overwhelming reaction from the elephant or any animal itself. i would like to be involved with such projects and would be glad to be part of culture where i can make a small difference to the life of these great creatures.

  35. Anushree Roy
    Kolkata, India
    February 10, 2015, 1:41 am

    Poaching has always been a continuous threat to our wildlife and ecological balance. Thanks to the entire team for doing such a wonderful job in saving our natural heritage.

  36. Amal Nathan
    February 10, 2015, 1:07 am

    Nice to see videos like this. Outstanding performance by the team.

  37. Rana Kalita
    Assam, India
    February 10, 2015, 1:04 am

    We are impressed. Tonnes of thanks for your kind deed to the wildlife. I am from the land of world famous One Horned Rhino and Tea (Assam). We are also in grief for the unabated Rhino Horn poaching and Ivory Poaching in our land. We are fighting to curb this menace in ”Kaziranga National Park” Assam since long back. Last year it shook the mankind, when poachers started axe away horns when this gentle animal is alive and left to death…. The story in Kaziranga getting worse day by day…… We extend hand for moral support from all over the globe to keep our fight against Poaching on…..

  38. Mahmoud Fathy
    Saudi Arabia
    February 10, 2015, 12:39 am

    Nice and well done
    We should respect the animals right in life and don’t kill them hazardous

  39. Sandra Neuhuber
    February 10, 2015, 12:26 am

    How could anybody do this to these wonderful creatures? I am so saddened by the lengths that man will go to for greed.

  40. Yihan Li
    Hengshui, Hebei Province, P.R.China
    February 9, 2015, 11:04 pm

    Elephants are innocent. But we have to make lives of those poachers easier so they won’t poach elephants any more. I think this is the fundamental way to solve thise problem.

  41. Walker
    February 9, 2015, 7:06 pm

    I absolutely despise these gutless, senseless cowardly poachers period! I feel like hunting down these poachers myself and destroying each and every one of them. What a bunch of pieces of s•it they are. How in the world can humanity be sooo doggone: Cruel, Selfish and exploit these magnificent innocent creatures who are only doing what nature intended. This is a complete Crime Against Nature Period!!!!! Have a lot of good people out there who truly give a damn about animals and when I read stories like this it pisses me off. These animals are defenseless against humans! Most people/ organizations out there will speak out for animals and would love to destroy each and every one of these BASTARDS( POACHERS) who put a price tag on an animals head strictly for profit and that’s something that cannot and will not be tolerated for human profit. What a f•ckin disgrace! Sometimes it makes me sad to be human when I read stories like this!!! We must all do something fast before all of natures precious animals become extinct!!!!!!!!

  42. harlie
    wichita ks
    February 9, 2015, 3:58 pm

    how this is amazing you don’t find very many strong animals anymore!!!! but to the people I think im speaking for the elephant and my self thx and great job!!:):):)<3

  43. Stephanie Christman
    February 8, 2015, 10:31 am

    Kristin thanks so much for everything you do for all of these magnificent Elephants.

  44. Ponsi
    February 8, 2015, 6:45 am

    Sincere thank you for your efforts and dedicated work. Gratitude to all. Keep up your good work.

  45. Jim PARKER
    Victoria, BC, CANADA
    February 7, 2015, 9:02 pm

    I think it is pretty clear that the elle was indicating to you that he was okay now and thank you. . .. .

  46. Melinda Mueller
    Qualicum Beach, B.C., Canada
    February 7, 2015, 7:49 pm

    I have 38 foster babies at the Nursery, Ithumba, Voi, and Umani. I am so grateful that there IS a DSWT, and for the incredible work they are doing not only for our babies, but for the wild populations in Kenya. And I’m grateful to you, Kristin, for being such an ardent supporter of, and voice for, our Trust, and our elephants.

  47. coe lewis
    san diego
    February 7, 2015, 6:00 pm

    I am cofounding a wildlife conservation foundation in Africa and I would very much appreciate support, guidance, advice from all who help fight against poaching. national geographic, if you could help me or connect me with likeminded people….Please reach out to me. thank you!

  48. Donna Romero
    Anchorage, Alaska
    February 7, 2015, 4:36 pm

    Kristin, I am so in awe of The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and all the good they do. I have adopted many babies, and I support them as much as I can! Thank YOU so much for using your fame and fortune to support this wonderful cause! You were always my favorite in SATC because you seemed kind! I respect you even more now! Thanks again to both you and DSWT for helping these magnificent and intelligent beings!

  49. Cindy Munger
    February 7, 2015, 4:30 pm

    I feel like I spend my life searching the internet for stories such as this. I have always wanted to help more than I do now. I wonder if the people know how lucky they are to be able to help….Oh just to touch or witness one of these majestic souls…….

  50. Dunja
    New York
    February 7, 2015, 1:23 pm

    Amazing story! Thank you team and Kristin Davis

  51. Patricia
    February 7, 2015, 1:22 pm

    I would like to believe that he said “thank you guys”! 🙂

  52. Laurel Einloth-Brescia
    Pittsburgh, PA USA
    February 7, 2015, 10:59 am

    Dear Kristin,

    Thank you so much for sharing this story and wonderful video. I just fostered Barsilinga in December (Christmas gift to myself and DSWT) and I’m so happy to be part of the DSWT family. Your work is incredible. Thanks you for helping the wonderful creatures. I hope to visit the DSWT someday.


  53. Carol Keith
    United States
    February 7, 2015, 10:07 am

    My heartfelt Thanks to all involved and to the DSWT for your never ending fight for these majestic,iconic animals.I foster 2 but am saving to help others.May you all stay safe and know that you are appreciated the world over.Never give up,always go forward!