PHNOM TAMAO - In 2007, orphaned baby elephant Chhouk was found wandering alone in the forests of Mondulkiri Province, Cambodia. Badly emaciated and separated from his mother, this endangered Asian elephant had lost his left front foot due to injuries sustained from a poacher’s snare. The infection and severity of the illness represented certain death for a young elephant alone in the forest.
The Cambodian government requested the assistance of Wildlife Alliance and wildlife rescue and care director Nick Marx, who made the arduous journey and stayed alongside Chhouk for more than a week while his immediate injuries were tended to. When Chhouk had been stabilized, the injured elephant was transported by truck to Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center in a difficult and treacherous 26-hour journey. [Text continues below video.]
Chhouk was severely malnourished, his stump was badly infected, and nearly 5 inches of infected tissue and bone had to be removed. After his immediate survival was secure, his long-term care was the next concern. Without a foot, he was suffering severe balance issues, and the strain on his hips and back would make his lifelong welfare unlikely. With funding assistance from SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, and technical support from the Cambodian School of Prosthetics and Orthotics, Chhouk was fitted with his first prosthetic foot in 2009. Because of his injuries, Chhouk will never be a candidate for release into the forest, but he is immensely beloved both inside Cambodia, and as a global ambassador for Cambodia’s threatened Asian elephant populations. Featured on television in Australia, the U.S., and Britain, he is an eloquent messenger to the world about the need to save Asia’s wildlife and forests.
Elephants are rough on hardware, and each year until he matures, Chhouk will need a replacement foot. As he continues to grow into his adolescence, he requires new prostheses to fit his growing frame and replace those lost to wear and tear. This month, Wildlife Alliance and the Cambodian School of Prosthetics and Orthotics fitted Chhouk with his fourth prosthesis.
You can visit Chhouk at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Refuge Center, an hour outside of Phnom Penh, Cambodia to meet him and learn more about his inspiring story. If Cambodia is too far away, check out this video of the inspirational elephant, taking his new foot out for a walk in the forest and a swim in his lake.
Visit www.wildlifealliance.org to learn more.