In a truly miraculous turn of events, a wild elephant survived being shot in the head. The attack was probably carried out by poachers intending to kill the elephant for his ivory. Had the shot been fired just five centimeters lower, the bullet would have entered the elephant’s brain and killed him.

Nicknamed Pretty Boy, the 25-year-old male elephant is believed to have been living with the bullet lodged in his head for up to six weeks. Despite this, he was relaxed and gentle while examined and treated by veterinarians from the Animal and Wildlife Area Research and Rehabilitation Trust (AWARE), a conservation organization in Zimbabwe.

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One of the vets who cared for Pretty Boy, Dr. Lisa Marabini ventures that he was shot outside Mana Pools National Park, and entered the park to seek refuge. The elephant also had a gunshot wound on his shoulder. “We suspect he was shot in the head first and turned to flee, and the poacher put a bullet in his side,” explains Dr. Marabini.

“It usually takes more time to find the animal than it does to treat it,” details the AWARE Trust in a Facebook post, but this wasn’t the case for Pretty Boy who came right up to the team’s car and “made himself available for examination within half an hour.” Despite the harm done to him by humans, Pretty Boy was reportedly remarkably gentle towards the veterinarians who treated him.

While Dr. Marabini states she doesn’t usually feel fully comfortable coming quite so close to a wild elephant, Pretty Boy was extremely calm and “there were no aggressive vibes coming from him whatsoever.” The massive animal “literally emanated serenity,” according to her and it seemed “he knew we were there with the intention of helping him,” she adds.

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The team sedated Pretty Boy, took an X-ray of his skull and thoroughly cleaned the wound, removing pus and pieces of infected bone. He was given long-lasting antibiotics and parasiticides. The animal will have to be monitored by wildlife tour operators and may require further treatment.

Unfortunately, Mana Pools is an area frequently targeted by poachers who kill elephants to steal their ivory tusks and sell them at high prices. This problem runs rampant all across Africa. Most aren’t as lucky as Pretty Boy and thousands of elephants are killed for their tusks each year.

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In fact, studies show that one African elephant is killed for ivory every fifteen minutes, that’s close to 100 elephants being slaughtered for this evil trade each day. Tragically, elephant numbers in Africa have been plummeting since the 1970s, slashed by 60 percent between then and now. This may lead to the extinction of this grand and significant species by 2020 according to scientists as elephants are being killed faster than they are being born.

Pretty Boy’s story proves how resilient, resourceful and intelligent elephants are. Yet, we continue to allow thousands of these majestic animals to be gunned down each year, their tusks ripped out of their heads so that a clueless consumer on the other side of the globe can purchase an ivory statuette.

If the illegal wildlife trade wasn’t bad enough, this impressive species faces a wealth of other threats from the human population. Worldwide, elephants are confined in zoos, brutally forced to perform tricks at the circus and ridden around to exhaustion as a tourist attraction. Elephants are strong enough to crush us with their trunks alone, but more often than not, they refrain from using their physical superiority to do us harm. Why, then, can’t we extend them the same privilege?

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How You Can Help Elephants

While most of us know the evils of ivory and of the wildlife trade, it is important to share that awareness for the benefit of consumers who may not yet be clued in about the extent wild animals suffer for this cruel trade. Moreover, there are countless easy steps to take to ensure we never cause elephants harm and to speak up for these magnificent creatures.

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Firstly, never patronize a zoo, circus, tourist attraction offering elephant rides or any other facility that keeps wild animals captive for human entertainment and encourage family and friends to do the same. Additionally, you can speak up against poaching and wildlife trafficking by signing petitions against the bloody ivory trade on Rainforest Rescue, Avaaz, and SumofUs for instance. You can also check out these 10 Simple Ways to Stop Wildlife Poaching to help curb the illegal wildlife trade as a whole.

While Pretty Boy escaped death thanks to an auspicious twist of fate, countless other individual elephants continue to suffer at the hands of humans. These include Nosey, Kavaan, Hanako, Happy, Bubbles, Anna Louise, Laura, Lucky, Billy, and several others.

Finally, you can support organizations who are fighting for elephants, such as the WWF, the Born Free Foundation and IFAW, as well as the AWARE Trust who treated and saved Pretty Boy.

All images from the AWARE Trust/Facebook