(ELEPHANTS/WILDLIFE) Mosha, a three-legged Thai elephant, was only 7-months-old when she stepped on a deadly land mine on the Burmese border and lost her front leg.
She is one of the dozens of elephants who have been wounded by land mines in this border region where rebels have been fighting the Myanmar government for decades.
The now 9-year-old elephant was brought to the Friends of the Asian Elephant Hospital in Thailand–which treats elephants suffering from broken bones, infections, and knife wounds–where she is a permanent resident.
When she first arrived in 2007, she became the first elephant in the world to receive a prosthetic limb after veterinarians feared she would not recover when she refused to eat and socialize with other elephants.
Her new limb was a great success, but her rapid growth posed a challenge.
She weighed about 1,300 pounds when she first came to the FAE hospital, and as she continued to grow, her missing leg put tremendous strain on her remaining three limbs and her spine.
Today, she weighs more than 4,400 pounds, and her continuous growth–the average Asian elephant weighs around 11,000 pounds–necessitates frequent upgrades of her artificial leg.
Mosha recently received her ninth artificial leg, thanks to FAE who keeps designing and creating new molds for her–which can be a very complex process.
In fact, FAE recently added a prosthesis factory to its facility, which will make the process more affordable and efficient.
Dr. Therdchai Jivacate, a Thai orthopedist who runs a clinic for human amputees, helped design the prosthetic limbs for Mosha and claims these animals would not be able to survive without them.
“When she cannot walk, she is going to die,” he said in 2009, when Mosha was fitted with a new prosthesis.
“The way she walked was unbalanced, and her spine was going to bend. That means she would have hurt her cartilages badly and eventually stopped walking. And she would have died because of that.”
Mosha’s unique limb is made from plastic, sawdust, and metal, and has been specially engineered to cope with Mosha’s heavy weight, allowing her to move as freely as other elephants. There’s no doubt that this new technology has helped save her life.
Since it’s opening in 1993, the FAE hospital has treated 15 elephant land mine victims, with two elephant prosthetic patients: Mosha and Motala.
Their pioneering treatment certainly paves way for further elephant prosthetics, and could potentially save many more of these extraordinary animals’ lives.