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The BBC's Lucy Hockings:
"Making an elephant foot was not something they were taught in training"
 real 28k

Monday, 17 July, 2000, 17:02 GMT 18:02 UK
New foot for jumbo
Motala
Motala's plight turned her into a national celebrity
Vets in Thailand are preparing to fit an elephant injured by landmine last year with an artificial foot - an operation they say will be a world first.

Motala, 38, shot to fame around the world last year when surgeons at Thailand's only elephant hospital battled to patch up her damaged front left foot following the crippling accident.

Motala
The blast left Motala's foot badly injured
The operation left her leg a few centimetres shorter than the other three.

Since the surgery Motala has spent most of her days hobbling around on her three healthy feet or supported in a somewhat undignified manner by a specially designed sling.

Almost a year on she is still undergoing daily physiotherapy, but surgeons say Motala should be able to step out with confidence in a matter of weeks.

Surgery
Motala has undergone hours of delicate surgery
Help came from a hospital workshop in nearby Chiang Mai, where a team more used to making prostheses for humans has developed an artificial elephant foot.

They are confident that the high-density plastic used to make the foot will be able to bear Motala's three-tonne bulk.

The team of engineers say they scoured the internet looking for examples of previous efforts to fit artificial limbs to elephants, but - perhaps unsurprisingly - they drew a blank.

Their prototype will be modified once a plaster cast of Motala's stump has been made.

Sling
Motala has had to spend much of her time supported by a giant sling
The foot will then be padded with foam and the device held in place with an array of leather straps and buckles.

Motala trod on the mine whilst working with a logging team near the Thai-Burmese border.

More than three days painful walk away from help, she limped through the forest before being transported by truck to the Hang Chat Elephant Hospital in Thailand's Lampang province.

Using a borrowed crane to support Motala's massive weight, surgeons at the hospital undertook a pioneering operation to repair her foot and clear infected tissue.

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See also:

29 Aug 99 | Asia-Pacific
Picture gallery: Jumbo's op ends well
07 Oct 99 | Asia-Pacific
Landmine elephant's steps to recovery
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