Thai Doctor Outfits Baby Elephant With Prosthetic Leg

After losing a leg to a landmine, Mosha gets a new prosthetic elephant leg.

Feb. 15, 2009 -- Mosha was only 7 months old when she stepped on a landmine on the Thai-Burmese border.

The explosion severely injured her right front leg, which was later amputated. For two years afterward, she limited her physical and social development by stumbling around on three legs.

Thousands of Thais have been injured due to landmines leftover from boarder conflicts, especially from those with Cambodia. A recent survey estimated there are about 100 new mine casualties each year.

Animals are threatened, too. Mosha is a resident of the world's first elephant hospital in Lampang, Thailand. She is currently one of many patients treated there, with fellow elephants suffering sicknesses from infection to broken bones to knife wounds.

One of the most devastating injuries doctors treat at the Friends of the Asian Elephant hospital is mine injuries.

Doctors feared the worst for Mosha until she had a chance meeting with Dr. Therdchai Jivacate, who runs a foundation for human amputees. Jivacate knew that Mosha could not survive as she grew heavier with age.

"When she cannot walk, she is going to die," he said.

Jivacate's foundation is well versed in landmine tragedies — having made prosthetic limbs for over 16,000 humans — but had never fitted an elephant. Mosha was the first. Doctors at his Prostheses Foundation of H.R.H. the Princes Mother successfully fitted an artificial leg for the baby elephant. Fashioned out of plastic, sawdust and metal, doctors aimed to provide a cushion for Mosha sturdy enough to carry her weight.

Elephant Initially Scared of Prosthetic Leg

When Mosha first saw her artificial leg, doctors say she was scared of it. But as soon as they put it on and she felt she could put some weight on it, then, they say, she didn't want to let them take it off.

Now happily ensconced in the FAE compound, Mosha lives with other elephants in rehabilitation. Almost a year out of her operation, she eats 200 pounds of food a day and is growing so fast that doctors recently fitted her with a second, larger prosthesis.

After her daily exercises, Mosha takes a nap. The prosthesis is only removed when she sleeps.

Doctors say Mosha should live many long, happy elephant years. And although she's just a baby, by proving that no obstacle is too big to conquer, even when weighing over 1,000 pounds, this little youngster has captured the hearts of her keeper Palandee Sucharitsuchada, if not the entire compound.

"I can't leave her," said Sucharitsuchada, "I have to be with her all the time."

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