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Poacher's Bullet Slays Elephant

We'd first seen the dead elephant two days before, a couple of kilometers from Mwambashi River Lodge. It was a young cow, lying on its side with its front feet tucked together as if asleep.

Dead elephant, shot by poachers
Dead elephant, the victim of a poacher's bullet.

At that stage the carcass was still fresh and there were no immediate signs of injury or cause of death.

A rudimentary autopsy by Ian Stevenson of Conservation Lower Zambezi, a volunteer group set up to assist the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) in combating poaching, soon revealed the sad reality - the elephant had died of internal injuries caused by a poacher's bullet.

The poacher's aim had been poor - instead of killing the elephant immediately, the slug from the AK47 had caused internal bleeding and a slow death.

By the time the elephant eventually collapsed and died, the poachers were long gone, leaving empty-handed.

In the process they'd deprived an elephant family of one of its members and the park of another cherished resident.

Dead elephant being turned over
Ian Stevenson and ZAWA rangers prepare to turn the elephant to check for bullet wounds.

After Ian and the ZAWA rangers had completed the grizzly task of cutting open the elephant to establish probable cause of death, and then removing the tusks, it wasn't long before nature took its inevitable course and the scavengers descended - first the vultures, then the hyenas.

Vultures on dead elephant Spotted Hyena scavenging
First the vultures ....... then the hyenas.

The smell of meat had also drifted widely enough to be picked up by a hungry lion many kilometers away, triggering the big cat's hazardous swim across the Zambezi River. See Lion Swims Zambezi River for more on this.

Footnote: Steve and other camp staff from Mwamabashi River Lodge later saw the lion feeding on the remains of the elephant, so its journey was not in vain.

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