“The most beautiful people I’ve known are those who have known trials, have known struggles, have known loss, and have found their way out of the depths.” ~ Elizabeth Kübler-Ross
Born in 1989, Fishan, meaning ‘something smaller’, has been through many hardships over the years, but this has never stopped him from embracing life with a kind and open heart.
A Loving Companion
Fatherly and friendly, this gentle bull has close bonds with the females of the herd, as well as the youngsters born to the herd and adopted as new orphans. He demonstrates an incredible amount of patience, consideration, and grace for both his fellow elephants and the elephant carers he loves so much. Fishan is tall and slender elephant with short tusks and a sensitive soul that stresses easily. He shows so much passion for the orphaned calves and is eager to assist with their care.
Fishan’s Fracture Journey
Fishan can likely relate to other orphans’ traumatic histories, having one of his own – he was castrated at a young age due to an infection, and is thought to be an orphan. With the love he received from a female in his past, he is fond of women and takes more time to warm up to men, when it comes to his human carers. In September 2018, Fishan stepped into a deep hole and fractured his ulna bone in his front left leg. It was a serious injury that required the attention of some of South Africa’s top wildlife veterinarians. He underwent two procedures to treat his leg – which was a massive feat considering he weighed four tonnes.
He was about 5 kilometres from the elephants’ homestead area when it happened, and could only move with very small steps. Elephant manager, Tigere stayed by his side and that night they stayed out on the reserve together. The team brought them everything they would need, including anti-inflammatory and pain medication from Wildlife vet Dr Peter Rogers as well as food, water (in a bath), and food. Tigere was incredible, constantly insuring that Fishan was doing okay.
It took the whole of the following day to get back home, thanks to a lot of patience and teamwork from our elephant care team. When the elephants returned that evening, there was a lot of rumbling and a special moment with Bubi who approached him gently and touched his leg tenderly with her trunk. They had been concerned about Fishan and were happy to be reunited with their special friend.
Shortly after Fishan had rested, they started hydrotherapy on the leg, which seemed to give relief, and the new few days his appetite was good and he remained in good spirits, while our team considered the way forward. X-rays were taken by Wildlife vet Dr Johan Marais from Saving the Survivors which revealed a fracture in the bull’s lower ulna bone.
For four months Fishan could not walk far distances and stayed back during the day in the stables area while the rest of the herd spent their days in the wild. Our carers were incredible, staying by his side and reading and talking to him throughout that time.
Fishan has a slight limp now but is walking better and better and improving in his gait immensely with each month that passes. It is incredibly impressive watching him walking with his herd out in the wilderness each day. He is a true survivor. With his injury, we moved him to Tokwe and the young elephants’ section of the homestead and moved Somopane from Tokwe’s quadrant to where Fishan had been: with Bubi and Zindoga. Tokwe helps protect Fishan and the youngsters have greatly bonded with the bull. Fishan is safer in this area as the other bulls aren’t able to challenge him during the evening and night.
Fishan’s Pressure Wound
Unfortunately, Fishan developed a pressure sore on the upper side of his fractured leg over the elbow joint, after an extended period of laying down on his injured leg. He chooses to lie on that leg as it is easier for him to use his healthy leg to be able to move and bend to help him get up. Pressure sores can occur when a heavy animal frequently lies on an area of their body where there is little muscle, such as a joint. In Fishan’s case, it is an elbow joint, which lies higher up on the leg.
Some tendons run over the joint, or bone, and are very close to the skin. Fluid is created by a bursa in between the tendons that keep them lubricated. When Fishan continually laid on that area with ongoing pressure, the bursa produced more fluid than normal until such time that the skin at the top became like a lump that eventually releases and drains the excess fluid.
The pressure sore, if continually laid upon will create scar tissue – which it has in Fishan’s case – and it will most likely be there for a long time to come, though the hole may eventually close, leaving just the scar.
Every morning the elephant carers clean the wound thoroughly by flushing it, to ensure any pus that may be caused by bacteria is removed. The hole in the wound has become increasingly smaller which is great news, and it will leave a bulbous looking round scar, or what looks like a mound of skin.
Our trusted vet, Dr. Peter Rogers explains all of this in the video below and confirms that he is happy with the wound, advising that Fishan experiences no pain from it.
Fishan and Friends
In other news, Jabulani has been giving Fishan a bit of a hard time lately. He will regularly spar with Fishan in an attempt to assert his dominance. Jabulani usurped Fishan in dominance, taking his position as second due to Fishan’s vulnerability caused by the slight limp his injury has given him. Fishan does not back down; however, which Jabulani respects a great deal. Younger bulls, Mambo and Zindoga, and even dominant bull, Sebakwe, also participate in the wrestling.
These sparring matches are an important part of life for elephant bulls, as they learn important life skills, but the wrestling in the Jabulani herd is always done with a great deal of care and regard for one another.
Fishan may have an unbelievably gentle nature, but he also has size on his side and is comfortable putting the younger bulls in their place.
It has been an incredible journey with Fishan, and it has been amazing to see how he was so determined not to give up. He inspired us every day! But we know that he knew we were beside him every step of the way – and he even seems to have a closer bond with some of the carers now.
Today, Fishan is doing incredibly well, although he still experiences some stiffness in cooler weather which requires anti-inflammatory support, and his pressure wound still requires daily cleaning. Should you wish to kindly contribute towards these expenses, please consider becoming a Fishan foster parent.
Seeing him today out in the wild, keeping up with the herd, in a very humble yet proud manner, is heart-warming for all of us. Back with the herd, enjoying the wilderness as an elephant should, Fishan continues to go from strength to strength. He loves walking through and foraging in the bush with his herd, albeit now slightly slower and with a slight limp. He is also loving his time swimming, more than ever. We suspect that the water helps to take some of the pressure off his weight and offers some cooling comfort to his body.
We look forward to continuing to watch Fishan thrive among the Jabulani herd and will continue to share his progress!