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Injured Elephant Limps All The Way To People Who Can Help

Elephants are regarded as one of the most intelligent animals on the planet — but here's a story that suggests they're among the wisest, too.
On Saturday, staff at the Bumi Hills Safari Lodge in Zimbabwe were surprised to discover a wild bull elephant had limped in from the surrounding bush to hold vigil outside a house there. Nick Milne, who manages the lodge's wildlife conservation foundation, arrived shortly after to assess the situation.

"We have elephants in the area, but mostly cows and calves. To have a bull walk up to a house is something that just does not happen," Milne told The Dodo. "So, I went to take a look, and it seemed like there was something seriously wrong with him. He wasn't able to move very well."
Bumi Hills' in-house veterinarian was gone for the weekend, so Milne called up another specialist, about 200 miles away, who volunteered to fly in to help. Incredibly, in the six hours it took for medical care to arrive, the elephant continued to linger nearby, quenching his thirst with water offered to him in a bucket.

"Generally, elephants we see are very aggressive or skittish. Obviously, they can get shot by hunters, so that behavior is natural," said Milne. "This elephant was very relaxed and very calm. He was unconcerned about us getting close."
Milne began to suspect that this animal's appearance outside the house was more than just coincidence.

After tranquilizing the elephant, the team who came to his rescue discovered a deep wound on his shoulder — an injury, said Milne, that appeared to be from a poacher's bullet. Unfortunately, they were unable to find any shell fragments inside, so its exact cause remains something of mystery.
Despite being about a month old, the wound wasn't badly infected, and the vet was able to complete the treatment in about an hour.

Although it's unclear whether that wound was caused by humans, Milne spotted another older injury that indicated this animal had survived an earlier attempt on his life — two healed bullet holes piercing through one of his ears.
"We have a big poaching problem in the area," Milne said. "We're losing a substantial number of elephants to poaching. It's a serious issue."

Before reversing the effects of the tranquilizer, rescuers fitted the elephant with a radio collar to track his movements as he continues to heal.

It's still too early to tell if the elephant, who has since been named Ben, will make a complete recovery, though Milne is optimistic. On Tuesday, Ben was seen still on the grounds of Bumi Hills, eating and drinking normally. Best of all, his limp appeared to be improving, and the wound was healing well.

Milne has been involved in the rescue of numerous injured animals, but the manner in which Ben seems to have rescued himself raises more questions than answers.
"You want to ask yourself, 'Did this elephant walk all the way here with this damaged leg by coincidence, or was it that he came looking for assistance?' We'll never be certain, but there's a lot more to elephants than we know," he said. "It's quite strange, but we're very thankful that we were able to make a difference."

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