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Health

You have to see the prosthetic leg on this 4,000-pound elephant

When Mosha was seven months old, a landmine blew off her front right leg. She would have died there, along Thailand’s border with Myanmar, had a team of rescuers not arrived. But they managed to mend the wound and whisk her to safety at the world’s first elephant hospital.

Without a limb, Mosha could not survive. Elephants are too enormous to get by without the full support of their legs. So a team began crafting a prosthetic limb out of plastic, metal, and sawdust that could support her 1,300 pound frame.

The thing about baby elephants, though, is that they grow.

Mosha now weighs 4,000 pounds and recently received her ninth fake limb. This is the best limb yet, as far as strength and flexibility go.

Mosha was the first elephant to ever receive a prosthetic limb, but she wasn’t the last.

The area where she was roaming is rife with landmines from rebel groups.

Elephants are especially susceptible to landmines because of their big feet and large ranges. In recent years, more than a dozen elephants in the area have been mutilated by these hidden bombs.

An older elephant, Motala, lost her leg in 1999. She’s lived at the hospital since and received her first prosthetic limb in 2012 at the age of 50. Her utter excitement is captured in a documentary called The Eyes of Thailand.

There are approximately 3,000 wild elephants in Thailand. While landmines pose a grave threat, the bigger long term threat is industrial logging which ruins their ecosystems.

Elsewhere in the world, elephants are being pushed to extinction by poaching.

Mosha’s story is a reminder of how much humans care for these hulking, majestic and gentle creatures, yet how vulnerable elephants remain.

In the years ahead, countries have to work together to both protect both their habitats and their health.