Baby Elephant Loses Leg In Landmine Blast And Prosthetic Leg Gives New Meaning To Life 15 Years Later

When your puppy or kitty gets a severe injury, it’s devastating. And if they have to have a limb amputated, your heart just breaks a little more. But, take a look around and you’ll see a three-legged pup chasing after a ball, or a three-legged kitty still playing and looking happy. There is lots of life to live after an injury that requires amputation.

As for bigger animals, it’s a different story. For an elephant, with so much more mass to carry, a missing limb can greatly impact their spine alignment and affect recovery and overall health.

Mosha the Asian elephant was only 2-years-old when she stepped on a landmine near the Thai-Burmese border. Just a baby, the veterinarians were able to save her life, but unfortunately, couldn’t save her leg. As a result, it was decided that she couldn’t be released back into the wild. There was no way she’d survive on her own with such a physical disadvantage. So, she was brought into the Friends of the Asian Elephant Foundation in Lampang, Thailand.

It was orthopedic surgeon Therdchai Jivacate who’s been with Mosha since the beginning, and who welcomed the challenge of trying to design a one-of-a-kind prosthetic for the elephant. Dr. Therdchai has made thousands of prosthetics for more than 20,000 humans and small animals, but taking on something like this was totally out of the norm for him. Regardless, it was clear that the animal needed help. “The way she walked was unbalanced and her spine was going to bend,” Dr. Therdchai told Reuters. “She would have died.”

The doctor calculated her weight, size and other vitals before coming up with the initial design. Mosha was so young when she was first outfitted with the prosthetic that Dr. Therdchai had to keep in mind that she will grow. With the first prosthetic, it took Mosha 12 hours to learn how to walk with her new leg. It was awkward, uncomfortable and foreign. Once she got the hang of it, she adapted very well and to this day, continues to live a pretty normal life, all things considering.

In her first couple of years, she went from 1,300 pounds to 4,000, resulting in about nine limbs over 15 years. She has to get adjustments made to accommodate her size every few years. Dr. Therdchai comments about the process: “This is a challenge for me too. Every time we fix it we improve it. It’s more sturdy, stronger. This is not in the textbook. Sometimes its trial and error.”

Mosha shows her gratitude to the kind doctor by raising her trunk in the air every time he comes into the animal hospital, almost like a salute. Dr. Therdchai and his team have made a huge impact on Mosha’s quality of life while also becoming the pioneers in prosthetics treatment for large animals.

Click on the video below to watch Mosha’s story.

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