Mosha, a female Asian elephant, has made history by becoming the first elephant to receive a prosthetic leg after losing her right foreleg in a landmine explosion at just seven months old. The incident occurred near the Thai-Myanmar border, where landmines still pose a risk, leftover from clashes between the Myanmar army and ethnic minority rebels.
For two years, Mosha managed to move around by raising her trunk and leaning on structures for support. However, the compensation method began to take a toll on her spine, and if left unaddressed, would have caused her death. Thai orthopaedic surgeon Therdchai Jivacate designed and fitted Mosha with her first prosthetic leg, which helped her walk again without putting any strain on her spine and other legs.
As elephants can live for more than 40 years, the prosthetic leg would need to be replaced frequently as Mosha grows and her weight increases. With the help of donations, the prostheses have evolved into more sophisticated versions that are now constructed from an individual mould using thermoplastic, steel, and elastomer, according to Dr Chloe Buiting, an Australian vet and wildlife conservationist.
Mosha’s case is unique, and she has since received more than ten prosthetic limbs. She resides at the Friends of the Asian Elephant (FAE), which is the world’s first elephant hospital. Unlike other elephants that come and go after treatment, Mosha is a permanent resident of the FAE because of the extent of her injuries and the care she requires.
Euthanasia was never considered for Mosha, according to Dr Chloe Buiting, due to religious reasons. In Thailand, a large percentage of the population follows Buddhism, where euthanasia is not readily discussed or practised.
Mosha’s story is inspiring and a testament to the dedication of veterinarians, wildlife conservationists, and the human spirit. Despite the adversity she faced early in life, Mosha has continued to thrive and is a symbol of hope for those who face similar challenges.