Chhouk, an 11-year-old Asian male elephant living at the Wildlife Alliance conservation organisation in Cambodia, finally walks with a 44-pound prosthetic foot made of recycled car tyres and tow truck strapping. The video shared by Paradise Wild Life Park has gone viral and gathered around 3.7 million views across social media platforms.
Apparently, Chhouk was found in 2007, at less than a year old, roaming alone in the forest, in northeast Cambodia. He had lost his foot to a poacher's snare and was also gravely ill from the infected wound and severely malnourished. To gain his trust, the rescuers cared for him in the forest for two weeks before transporting him to Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre, where specialists were able to heal his wounds. But his foot had to be amputated.
As the news has gone viral, Paradise Wildlife Park in the UK has agreed to donate $1,450 (Dh5,325.81) yearly so that the elephant gets a new prosthetic every six months, allowing him to walk, swim, and even run without difficulty.
Talking to the news sources, 27-year-old Cam Whitnall, who runs the Paradise Wildlife Park and Big Cat Sanctuary, said: “The level of care that he gets is brilliant, and he has a great life now. There's no better feeling. He's still growing, it needs replacing often, and we've been sending payments to cover that.
“And for his comfort, the prosthetics are made of recycled rubber and some velcro to tie it up. They weigh about 20kg," he added.
In an interview with local channels, Whitnall said: "Recently, I visited Wildlife Alliance in Cambodia and found the whole setup for Chhouk was exceptional. The keepers use a little gadget to isolate his leg to attach the prosthetic. Chhouk helps the process like a human putting on a shoe. The new design is lighter, stronger, and quicker for staff to change."
According to Whitnall, the shoe quickly got Chhouk's approval, and he was running around within minutes of trying his new shoe!
An Instagram user @ Abhishek. aphale commented: "I'm so happy that he can finally walk."
Another user, @rewilding, wrote: "It is sad to see that he suffered a lot, but finally he can walk. Good work!"
Chhouk is the first elephant in Cambodia to receive a prosthesis and is celebrated as a successful rescue story. Asian elephants are nearly full size at 15 years old but continue to grow in size and weight until they are around 20 to 25 years old.