Asian elephant receives replacement prosthetic leg
The protected Asian Elephant. Image: pador/Flickr/CC BY-ND

An elephant in Thailand received a new prosthetic leg this week. Surprising as it may sound, she is not the first pachyderm walking on an artificial limb.

Elephant stepped on landmine

Motala, a 50-year-old elephant who lost her left front leg several years ago, received a replacement limb this week. She lost her leg in 1999 when she stepped on a landmine set on the Thai-Myanmar border as part of ongoing conflicts in that troubled region.

Landmine casualties are not uncommon in Thailand. Over 100 are reported each year, according ABC.

Protected until artificial leg developed

Motala’s owners, who used her to help move fallen trees, tried to save her leg, but in the end it had to be amputated. She lived as a loved and protected invalid until 2007 when technology caught up with her injury and she was fitted with a prosthetic leg, on which she learned to walk again.

Third replacement limb

She was fitted with a better, more permanent leg in 2009. But because of her changing weight, that artificial limb eventually needed to be replaced as well. She is now doing fine with her third prosthetic leg at the Friends of the Asian Elephant hospital in the Mae Yao National Reserve in Lampang,Thailand.

First elephant prosthetic

Mosha the elephant came to the Friends of the Asian Elephant hospitalĀ  when she was rescued in 2007 at 7 months old. Sources do not say how she lost her leg, but she was initially depressed. She would not mix with the other elephants and refused to eat. Doctors at the hospital did not expect her to survive.

That is, until Dr. Therdchai Jivacate came along. He runs a foundation for human amputees and had fitted thousands of people with prosthetic limbs. Jivacate had Mosha’s leg made out of plastic, sawdust and metal.

A year after receiving the world’s first pachyderm artificial limb, she was eating about 200 pounds of food a day and had grown so largeĀ  that she had to be fitted with a new leg in 2009.

The prosthetic legs are only removed when the elephants are sleeping.


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