A bull elephant has survived being shot in the head by poachers in Zimbabwe–but it is the story of his survival that’s making headlines. The wounded pachyderm walked calmly up to vets as if he were seeking treatment for his epic headache.


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The wound in this elephant’s head is no accident. This was a bullet meant to kill the giant animal. But the elephant managed to survive, thanks–in no small part–to the thickness of his skull.


Authorities believe he was shot outside the Mana Pools park in Zimbabwe, and then entered the park looking for treatment.

Vets from the Aware Trust often treat wounded animals, and most of the time this means pursuing them in much the same way hunters do. A wounded animal is typically much less likely to welcome human contact. Vets often track wounded animals in the hopes that they reach them before the poachers looking to finish them off do.


“It’s like it knew we were there with the intention of helping it,” Dr Lisa Marabini said to the BBC. “We think it was shot outside the park and came inside for refuge.”


“‘Hurry up and wait’ is a common saying in wildlife circles as it usually takes more time to find the animal than it does to treat it,” an Aware Trust spokesman added.


The events of June 13 were different. The elephant, who they’ve named Pretty Boy, heard sounds of human activity, he sought out the origin of the noise.  The vets had been in the park for less than half an hour when the elephant approached their car.


It didn’t take long for them to realize what was wrong. They tranquilized him, and began their examination.


The sheer size of his skull made the examination difficult. They couldn’t find it with traditional measures, so broke out a metal detector and ran it over his head.


After removing bone fragments, they found the projectile lodged in his skull. Because it hadn’t penetrated the skull, Pretty Boy’s odds for survival are really good.


The bullet had actually deflected off of the bone, and skated up under the skin and muscle on top of the skull which is why it proved so hard to find.


The team worried that the male’s weak back might be more of a problem. They weren’t sure he would be able to stand and move properly after the effects of the tranquilizers wore off.


But he managed well, and has been just as docile with the vets as he was when he initially sought them out.

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