Mosha, the first elephant to receive a prosthetic leg, has now made use of more than 10 false limbs – and she’s still going strong.
The elephant was just seven months old when a landmine near the Thai-Myanmar border, left over from clashes years ago between the Myanmar army and ethnic minority rebels, claimed her right foreleg.
Mosha managed to get around for two years before receiving her first prosthetic leg designed by Thai orthopaedic surgeon Therdchai Jivacate.
During that time, she compensated for her missing limb by raising her trunk and leaning on structures for support.
But it was taking a toll on her, Jivacate says.
“The way she walked was unbalanced and her spine was going to bend. She would have died.”
He developed a sturdy prosthesis for Mosha then worked along with Friends of the Asian Elephant (FAE), the world’s first elephant hospital, to help Mosha walk again without straining her spine and other legs.
Because elephants live often beyond the age of 40, the team at FAE – with the help of donations – had to develop new prostheses frequently to support Mosha’s growth and weight.
“Today the prosthesis has evolved into a more sophisticated version of the first and is now constructed from an individual mould using thermoplastic, steel and elastomer," says Dr Chloe Buiting, an Australian vet and wildlife conservationist.
Euthanasia was not considered for religious reasons, she adds.
“While euthanasia for such an injury may be considered as an option in many places around the world, in Thailand where a large percentage of the population follows Buddhism, it is not so readily discussed or practised.”
Because of the extent of Mosha’s injuries and the care she needs, she is a permanent resident of the FAE, unlike other elephants that come and go after treatment.
SOURCES: JUNGLEDOCTOR.ORG, FRIENDSOFTHEASIANELEPHANT.ORG, THEGUARDIAN.COM, BEAUTIFULDESTINATIONS.COM