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Elephants may be the mightiest land mammals walking the earth today, they can be undone by one of the smallest building blocks of life: rogue cells and the cancers that they cause.
Tom is one of the magnificent bulls that patrol the volcanic Chyulu hills, part of the area protected by Big Life, and we see him often enough to have become quite fond of him. A couple of years ago he started to lose condition, and we noticed a swelling between his legs. As it grew it became clear that very sadly Tom had cancer of the scrotum.
With assistance from the Kenya Wildlife Service we darted him a year ago, cut away some of the growths and treated the infections. On waking up, he took a very long drink and then disappeared for 6 months. We thought he might have died somewhere, but were overjoyed when he turned up again recently.
The wounds between his legs seemed better, but we needed to get a closer look. Again with assistance from KWS, this time from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust sponsored mobile vet unit, we darted him at the start of the week. The great news is that although the cancer will probably not heal, the tumours have not regrown. The affected area is vastly improved from when we last treated him, and we believe that Tom will live many more years here in the Amboseli ecosystem.
Photo copyright: David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust