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Early last February, a 40-year-old bull elephant named Mshale wandered into a mud bath in Kenya’s Tsavo Northern Area National Park. Members of the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust recognized the elephant, but had not seen him since October 2013, when the rains drove him away. Mshale returned in a weakened state, with poisoned dart wounds on his back and neck, probably from a poacher attacking from a tree. Veterinarian Dr. Poghon set to work treating the elephant’s wounds and packing them with green clay before letting him stand and walk away into the deep woods.

Despite his poor condition, Mshale came back to the mud baths knowing he could find help there. The Trust had treated his wounds before, and this was the fourth poison dart attack the elephant had survived in just over a year. The first three attacks, all poaching attempts, occurred in November 2o12 and March and August of 2013. The iconic elephant has not been sighted since his last treatment, but the Trust discovered and saved another wounded bull while searching for Mshale.

Unfortunately, Mshale’s hero status has not deterred poachers from coveting his majestic 100 lb. tusks, which can fetch over $16,000 on the black market. Almost 1,500 elephants have been poached at Tsavo National Park alone, and nearly 36,000 elephants are killed for their tusks on the African continent annually.

Elephants like Mshale give us hope that animals can stand strong in the face of the poaching industry.

Image source: DSTW / Express UK