As part of our larger commitment to wildlife conservation, we've found a deeply resonant cause in Ellie, the youngest elephant amputee in Malaysia. Our support for Ellie and the Kuala Gandah Elephant Conservation Centre serves as a testament to how collective action can drive tangible change. It's a meaningful chapter in our ongoing commitment to making a real impact in both society and the environment.
From pitfall to prosthetics
When Ellie was just one year old, a boar trap in Kelantan took her front right leg. Thankfully, villagers and rangers acted swiftly in this animal rescue effort. Ellie was taken to a local sanctuary for immediate medical attention, and her wounds slowly healed. But an elephant cannot survive on three legs for long. The vets and caretakers knew that as she grew, there would soon come a time when her legs wouldn't support her weight.
Ellie's life took another significant turn at age two when she received her first prosthetic leg in the Kuala Gandah sanctuary.
Two artificial legs a year
As a rapidly growing elephant, Ellie needs frequent prosthetic replacements, very much like how a child outgrows school shoes—but with much more urgency. Replacements come around every six months or so, and each needs to be sturdier than the last.
A new chapter with Deriv's support
This year, we stepped in to fund Ellie's prosthetic needs, empowering a local prosthetics services company to enlist a certified Thai specialist with valuable knowledge in elephant biomechanics.
Making an artificial leg for an elephant involves the same considerations as human prosthetics, ranging from anatomy to weight. But the two creatures can't be more different when it comes to movement dynamics. This is why it was crucial for Ellie's new leg to be designed by a specialist who knew how elephants moved.
More than just a mechanical limb
With a new carbon fibre shell, more robust straps, and a foam lining for added comfort, the latest design is built to last. The prosthesis base is made of ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA), strong enough to bear Ellie's significant weight. Further refinement comes in the form of anti-slip layers and a batik pattern that gives the leg a uniquely local character.
Friends of the sanctuary
On 23 September, forty Deriv volunteers made their way to Kuala Gandah for a day of hands-on volunteering. The group committed themselves to tasks like cleaning paddocks, preparing elephant meals, feeding the elephants, and restoring the sanctuary's gravel paths. They engaged closely with the animals, gaining a deeper understanding of the elephants’ needs and conditions.
They also visited Ellie to see how comfortably she could move about with her new leg. It was reassuring to see her confidently going up and down a tall step or running towards her beloved caretaker when he affectionately called out to her. For the volunteers, the day was a chance to engage in meaningful work that adds another layer to Ellie’s evolving story.
An ongoing journey
Ellie’s story doesn’t end here, nor does our involvement. The prosthesis is regularly monitored and adjusted to ensure Ellie’s ongoing comfort. She will receive her second Deriv-sponsored leg in January 2024 to replace the present one.
More than one elephant's story
Ellie's tale is an example of what can happen when diverse disciplines come together for a common cause. It shows the importance of knowledge, resources, and, yes, empathy in making a meaningful impact.
As Ellie walks forward with her new prosthetic leg, she's not just advancing on her own. She's challenging us to advance along with her towards a future ripe with potential for both her species and ours.