Bennie, the elephant steals hearts

2015-10-07 12:09
Elephant Sands Lodge manager Mike Toth gives Bennie the wild bull elephant some water to drink.

Elephant Sands Lodge manager Mike Toth gives Bennie the wild bull elephant some water to drink. (Supplied)

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Pietermaritzburg - Bennie the wild bull elephant has been visiting the Elephant Sands Lodge in Botswana every second day since his operation.

The wild bull elephant has formed an unusual and rather poignant relationship over the last few weeks with the lodge manager, Mike Toth, after Bennie approached Toth a month ago to help ease the pain of his sore foot.

Toth first spotted the elephant limping in between occupied tents at the lodge’s campsite last month.

Toth said Bennie surprised him when the elephant approached him, pointed at him with his trunk and then lifted his foot and pointed at it.

After Toth cleaned the foot, where a large abscess had formed, and gave Bennie water to drink from a nearby hose, Bennie marched off into the bush.

Two days later, he was back at the campsite and when Toth tried to move him away from the tents, Bennie instead turned around and followed Toth “like a dog for 60 metres”.

Toth called in wildlife vet Erik Verreynne to treat the wild elephant.

After flushing out the dead tissue, he disinfected the wound and said the “prognosis was good” for Bennie.

Toth said Bennie has been visiting him at the lodge every second or third day since the operation.

“I think his visits are a way of saying thank you for the help. I introduced him to my daughter last week and he immediately accepted her.

“He comes for water, and we give him baths. I give him water from the hose pipe and he holds my hand while he drinks. If I try to pull my hand away, he squeezes it, as if to say ‘Hey, just leave your hand there,’” laughed Toth.

“He has really captured a lot of hearts, especially mine,” said Toth.

Verreynne said he would be treating Bennie again within the next few weeks but from the updates he had been given by Toth, things seemed to be going well.

He stressed that while the bond between Toth and Bennie was “remarkable” it was also “potentially dangerous”.

“Bennie is a wild elephant that does not know his own strength when it comes to people. A thump with the trunk is enough to kill or seriously injure a person.

“If Bennie is still in pain, he may respond with aggression if Mike does something he does not like.

“It is important the public realise that having close contact with wild animals is not normal and potentially dangerous. Keeping your distance is very important,” he said

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  elephant  |  animals

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