• This elephant was the first to be fitted with a prosthetic (Great Big Story, YouTube)Source: Great Big Story, YouTube
Mosha lost her leg to a landmine when she was a tiny calf, and spurred doctors to create the first elephant leg prosthesis.
Bianca Soldani

27 Jun 2016 - 3:27 PM  UPDATED 27 Jun 2016 - 3:39 PM

Mosha the elephant has known Dr Therdchai Jivacate for at least nine years. As a tiny elephant calf, she lost her her front right leg after stepping on a land mine on the Thai boarder with Burma - which eventually made her the recipient of Jivacate's innovative prosthesis.

Dr Jivacate is an orthopaedic surgeon  who has created more than 25,000 prosthetic limbs, both for humans and other animals.

Most notably, his encounter with Mosha made him the first person to invent an artificial leg for an elephant. As Mosha has grown bigger over the years, he has continually fitted her with new prosthetics to cater to her increasing size - and weight.

“This is a challenge for me too. Every time we fix it, we improve it. This is not in the text book, it’s trial and error,” he says in a recent video by Great Big Story.

When Mosha was first operated on, she weighed only 589kg, which seems little in comparison to her current adult weight of 2041kg. Naturally, her growth has put pressure on her prosthetic as well, and Dr Jivacate has been consecutively building them to be more sturdy, experimenting with materials including thermoplastic, steel and elastomer.

Mosha's first prosthetic around 2007 was a simpler construction, made from plastic, sawdust and metal.

Mosha and Dr Jivacaete made history for the first time an elephant received a prosthetic leg. Her case has helped veterinarians fit a host of elephants with similar artificial limbs since. 

Landmines left after the Second World War pose a continuing threat to humans and animals, with 64,000 causalities recorded in neighbouring Cambodia since 1979. 

Mosha has also developed a close bond with Dr Jivacate who says she salutes him every time he comes to visit her at Thailand's Friends of the Asian Elephant Foundation.

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