This is Mosha. She’s an Asian elephant.
One day, when Mosha was just seven months old, she stumbled across something awful near the Thailand-Myanmar border.
Though Thailand is a beautiful country, its borders are littered with land mines — the legacy of decades of conventional and guerrilla warfare in the region.
Land mines are buried explosive traps that will detonate if someone steps on them or hits a trigger wire.
Mosha was caught in the explosion, and though she survived, she was permanently scarred.
The damage was so severe that she lost part of her leg.
For two years, Mosha lived like this.
Then, Mosha met Therdchai Jivacate, a surgeon and inventor.
When Mosha was two and a half years old, Jivacate found her at the Friends of the Asian Elephant Foundation, the world’s first elephant hospital.
“When I saw Mosha, I noticed that she had to keep raising her trunk into the air in order to walk properly,” Jivacate told Motherboard, explaining that the injured elephant had to put most of her 1,300 pounds onto just her one front leg.
Jivacate worked with the hospital to build Mosha a custom prosthetic leg.
Jivacate is a prosthetic expert who has helped thousands of humans and animals, but he’d never made a prosthetic for such a big creature before.
Designing it has been an ongoing challenge. The prosthetic had to be comfortable for Mosha to wear, but it also had to be sturdy enough to support Mosha’s immense weight as she grew.
Since he started working with her, Mosha has gone through nine different prosthetics.
His hard work has paid off, though. The newest leg lets Mosha walk normally again.
She seems to know who’s responsible for that.
“I think she knows that I make her prosthetic legs as each time I come to the elephant hospital she makes a little salute by raising her trunk in the air,” Jivacate told Motherboard.
Mosha isn’t the only innocent creature whose life has been altered by an encounter with a land mine.
And Thailand isn’t the only country in danger. According to the United Nations, 78 countries have to live with land mines.
Because land mines are, by nature, both hidden and long-lasting, people can stumble across them years or even decades after they were planted.
Land mines do not listen to cease-fires. They do not disappear once a conflict has ended. They remain hidden in the ground, waiting to be stepped on.
15,000 to 20,000 people die each year because of them, and many more lose limbs just like Mosha did.
There are many ways we as a global community can help those who live in areas littered with land mines.
Many people, like the Mae Tao Clinic in Thailand, create prosthetics for the human survivors of land mine explosions.
Others, like The Halo Trust, are working to prevent injuries and deaths altogether by going out and getting rid of the mines, which have to be individually found and disarmed. It’s difficult, dangerous work, but it saves lives.
Still others, like the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, are working to make sure land mines are never produced again.
The campaign has been working to advance the Mine Ban Treaty, which has been signed by over 162 countries. (The U.S. is, notably, not one of them, but President Obama has pledged to stop using land mines outside the Korean Peninsula.)
By supporting the efforts of those working to put an end to this problem, we can ensure that future generations of humans (and elephants) can live free — and that horrible methods of warfare don’t continue claiming lives for decades after wars end.
Watch Great Big Story’s video about Mosha and Dr. Jivacate below: