May 3, 1010–According to a 2004 Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor report, it is not uncommon for both domestic and wild animals—including buffalo, wild pigs and dogs, and tigers—to fall victim to landmines in Burma and Thailand. Reports indicate that up to 90 have been killed or injured along the Thailand-Burma (Myanmar) border. Though the staff of the Friends of the Asian Elephant (FAE) Elephant Hospital in Thailand has treated nine survivors, only two have survived and many more die each year.
However, thanks to the CIR Casting System developed by the team led by Dr. Yeongchi Wu at the Center for International Rehabilitation (CIR), two elephant landmine survivors at FAE’s Elephant Hospital–Mosha and Motala–are now able to walk again on their own four legs.
Motala made headlines in 1999 when she stepped on a landmine along the Thailand-Burma border while logging with her owner (mahout). Originally, they amputated her shattered leg and built a temporary sawdust-filled prosthesis for her to wear until something more permanent could hold the weight of her upper body (approximately 2 tons).
In 2006, Baby Mosha stepped on a landmine when she was only 7 months old. Her wounds healed faster than Motala’s and in 2009, Dr. Therdchai Jivacate of the Prostheses Foundation used the CIR Casting System to fit her with her first prosthetic limb. According to CIR:
The CIR system replaces traditional plaster-of-Paris bandages with a specially made fabric casting bag filled with polystyrene beads. By placing the casting bag around the residual limb, a negative mold is formed once vacuum suction is applied. The mold can then be removed and used to create a final prosthesis quickly and easily. The technique was developed with funding from the National Institute on Disability Rehabilitation Research for the CIR’s Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on improved technology access for landmine survivors. The fabrication method was taught at a World Health Organization-sponsored technology-transfer workshop at the Srindhorn National Rehabilitation Center in Bangkok, Thailand, in March 2007. After attending the workshop, Dr. Therdchai Jivacate, the Secretary-General of Thailand’s Prostheses Foundation and recipient of the 2008 Ramon Magsaysay Award, applied a modified version of the system to Mosha.
After Mosha was successfully fitted with her first prosthesis, Dr. Therdchai Jivacate used the CIR Casting System to build a prosthesis for Motala.
This process is featured in the feature-length documentary, The Eyes of Thailand, Directed and Produced by Windy Borman and Produced by Tim VandeSteeg.
CIR’s Kathryn Jackson writes, “The CIR Casting System has been used for several years to create high-quality, low-cost prostheses for human landmine survivors and other people with below-knee amputation. Now, Dr. Wu hopes that using the casting system to craft prostheses may be a viable alternative to destroying animals like elephants injured by landmines. He also thinks the system might work for racehorses if their thin, spindly legs break.”
To learn more about the CIR Casting System, please visit:
Producer/Director, The Eyes of Thailand