THE TSAVO MOBILE VETERINARY UNIT
REPORT FOR - February 2016

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FIELD VETERINARY REPORT FOR TSAVO MOBILE VET UNIT FOR THE MONTH OF FEBRUARY 2016

Reported By Jeremiah Poghon

Introduction

Despite Tsavo ecosystem remaining fairly wet due to the El Nino weather phenomenon, there was a slight increase in veterinary cases, mainly elephant cases, compared to those observed in January. This was attributed mainly to poaching attempts and human wildlife conflict. Cases handled included autopsy examination of dead elephant’s carcasses in Manyani, Rukinga and north of Galana River and treatment of injured elephants in Kiboko, Aruba, Kilaguni and Amboseli National park. The unit also rescued an abandoned elephant calf along the standard gauge railway (SGR) works near Kenani, Tsavo east.

CASE#1 ELEPHANT AUTOPSY

Date:  15th February 2016

Species: African Elephant

Sex: Female

Age: Adult

Location: Manyani, Tsavo west National park

History

The carcass was spotted by an aerial patrol undertaken by DSWT aircraft with its tusks intact and at an advanced level of decomposition.

Autopsy

The carcass was decomposing and the tusks were easily pulled out. The surrounding ground indicated signs of struggle before death. The trunk and the facial soft tissues were eaten off by carnivores. The intestinal organs were all eaten away hence no vital organs were accessible for autopsy. There were bruise marks around the perineal area indicating blunt object hit.

Post-mortem of an elephant

Diagnosis: - possibly hit by a vehicle or train

CASE#2 TREATMENT OF AN INJURED ELEPHANT BULL

Date:           16th February 2016

Species:     Elephant

Sex:             Male

Age:             Bull

Place:          Kiboko, Chyulu National Park.

History

This elephant bull was spotted near Olepolos village near Masimba Township, Kiboko. Helicopter assistance was requested as the elephant was in thick bush. The bull was with another herd of 18 but later separated and remained with only one bull. The bull had been treated previously for the same wound.

The elephant was immobilised using 18 mgs of Etorphine in a dan-inject dart and loaded into a dart gun, the helicopter was used to separate the two bulls and drive the injured one to an open area. He was darted in the rump and kept in the grassland by the helicopter. He went down after 14 minutes.

Immobilisation, examination and treatment

The bull had a wound on the caudal aspect of the right front limb just below the elbow joint suspected to have been caused by an old snare.

The elephant darted for treatment  The wound is possible from an old snare

The necrotic tissues were cut away, the pus drained and the wound cleaned using water mixed with Hydrogen peroxide. Tincture of Iodine and Oxytetracycline spray were applied before the wound was covered with wetted green clay. An intravenous administration of 50cc Dexamethasone Hcl was given through the ear vein and 200cc of long acting Amoxicillin injected intramuscularly. 

The wound is thoroughly cleaned  The vet attending to the wound

Green clay is applied

    

Reversal

Anaesthetic reversal was achieved by administration of Diprenorphine Hcl at three times the Etorphine dose. The bull woke up and moved away slowly.

Prognosis

Prognosis is good.

CASE#3 RESCUE OF AN ELEPHANT CALF ALONG THE SGR WORKS

Date:  18th February 2016

Species: Loxodanta Africana (African Elephant)

Sex: Male

Age: Calf

Location: Along SGR railway, Kenani Tsavo east.

History

A report was received from the KWS security officers of a stranded elephant calf along the standard gauge railway (SGR) construction works near the Kenani station inside Tsavo east National Park. The mother was nowhere to be seen. The calf was trapped in a drainage used to drain water away from the rail line and could not climb out.

An elephant calf trapped   The vet unit successfully rescue the little calf

 

Rescue

The calf appeared weak, dehydrated and in shock. He was splashed with water then transported to Voi stockade for further examination. After he was offloaded from the vehicle, he could not get up so he was administered with 20cc of 50% Dextrose I.V and 20cc Dexamethasone Hcl I.V stat and kept in the shade and cooled with water. Following treatment he was up in 10 minutes. An aeroplane was sent from Nairobi to airlift him to the Nairobi orphanage for further care.

The calf is taken to the Voi Stockades  Kenani awaiting the plane to take him to Nairobi Nursery

CASE#4 TREATMENT OF AN ELEPHANT BULL

Date:       20th February 2016

Species: African Elephant

Sex: Male

Age: Adult

Location: Kilaguni, Tsavo West National Park

History

A report was made of a limping elephant bull that frequently drank water at the Kilaguni Serena water hole. Previous attempts to locate him were not successful but he was finally spotted near the lodge on the 20th February in so much pain he was lying down which is a rare occurrence for an adult elephant.

Immobilization, examination and treatment

The elephant was immobilised using 18mgs Etorphine Hcl in a 1.5 ml Dan - inject dart from a vehicle using a Dan inject dart rifle. The elephant was immobilized in 9 minutes and went down lying on sternal recumbency then pushed to lateral recumbency by the vet team.

The elephant goes down on sternal recumbency  The elephant is helped down

  A deep penetrating wound was observed to the sole of the right foot. After probing and some surgery a sharp hard wood was removed from the deep wound. The blood was drained and the wound cleaned using water mixed with Hydrogen peroxide. Tincture of iodine was sprayed on the wound and wetted green clay applied. Dexamethasone Hcl and long acting Amoxicillin were administered intravenously and intramuscularly respectively.

A piece of wood is retrieved from the wound  The doctor probes the foot injury

The wound is cleaned  Extracting the foreign body

Reversal

Anaesthetic reversal was achieved by administration of Diprenorphine Hcl intravenously through the ear vein at three times the Etorphine dose. The elephant easily woke up and walked away.

Prognosis

Prognosis is good.

CASE#5 POSTMORTEM REPORT ON 2 ELEPHANT CARCASSES

Date of Death: Unknown

Date of autopsy: 21st February 2016

Species: African Elephant

Sex: Male and Female

Age: Adult

Location: Tsavo east, north of Galana River

History

A report was received from the KWS security officers of two dead Elephant carcasses spotted north of Galana River. KWS requested for an autopsy to be undertaken to ascertain the cause of death.

General examination (Male Carcass)

Carcass condition – good

The carcass was in early stages of putrefaction and aged at about 2 days since time of death. The skin was intact apart from the chopped off face area. There were no signs of struggle and the carcass was lying on the left flank on a dried up stream facing the Galana River direction from the Yatta plateau. The prepucial skin and the anal opening had carnivore bite marks.

Close examination

There was a blood stain at the lumbar area of the pelvic region. The skin was removed and a penetrating wound was seen from the skin heading down to the lumbar vertebrae. Massive haemorrhage and oedema was observed. The muscle tissues were cut to expose the vertebrae and a hole to the attachment of the tranverse process of the vertebrae the size of an index finger was discovered. The hole was probed and confirmed it went through the intervertebral discs towards the lower abdomen. Fluids were bubbling up through the penetrating wound. No other significant findings were observed.

Cause of Death

Death caused by high velocity projectile. 

A post-mortem is required on this elephant carcass

General examination (Female Carcass)

Carcass condition- good

The carcass was found about 200 meters from the Galana River on the northern side of the River. The tusks were removed at the time of autopsy. Putrefaction had already settled in so the carcass was aged at about 4 days since time of death. There was massive carnivore activity with tens of vultures and a lion spotted. The lower abdominal wall was open and most internal organs eaten out.

Close examination

The skin was removed to observe any injuries under the skin. One wound was seen on the right side of the flank was but could not be traced further due to carnivore activity that emptied the abdominal contents. The limbs and were all normal.

Cause of Death

No cause of death ascertained due to carnivore activity on the carcass and advanced decomposition.

CASE#6 TREATMENT OF AN ELEPHANT BULL

Date:  23rd February 2016

Species: African Elephant

Sex: Male

Age: Adult

Location: Aruba, Tsavo east National Park

History

An aerial patrol by the DSWT aeroplane spotted a lone elephant bull with a huge pus filled wound to the abdominal wall possibly caused by an arrow. Due to the thick bush and long distance from the road assistance of the helicopter was sought.

Immobilization, examination and treatment

The elephant was immobilised using 18mgs Etorphine Hcl in a 1.5 ml Dan - inject dart from the helicopter using a Dan-inject dart rifle. The elephant was guided by the DSWT helicopter to an open area and was immobilized after 12 minutes. The bull went down on the injured flank and a rope and a vehicle were used to flip him over to access the injured side. A penetrating arrow wound was observed to the left abdominal wall with an accumulation of pus below it. An incision was made at the lowest point of the wound so the pus could be drained and the dead flesh cut out. The wound was cleaned using water mixed with Hydrogen peroxide then sprayed with tincture of Iodine before wetted green clay was applied.

Draining pus from the wound  All dead tissue is removed from the wound

The vet attending to the injured elephant  The vet attending to the injured elephant

An intravenous administration of Dexamethasone Hcl was given through the ear vein and long acting Amoxicillin administered by intramuscular injection.

Prognosis

Prognosis is good.

CASE#7 POSTMORTEM OF AN ELEPHANT BULL

Date:       24th February 2016

Species: African Elephant

Sex: Male

Age: Adult

Location: Rukinga ranch

History

An aerial patrol by a KWS aeroplane spotted an elephant carcass at the Rukinga ranch that was about 10 days old. A team of security personnel secured the tusks and requested for an autopsy to determine the cause of death.

Post mortem examination

The male carcass was lying on the right flank and was in an advanced stage of decomposition; aged at about 3 weeks since the time of death. Not much could be deduced from the carcass but signs of a snare were visible. Tissue samples were taken for the genetic bank.

This carcass was found in advanced decomposition

Case of Death

Cause of death was tentatively put as snare wound.

CASE#8 POSTMORTEM OF AN ELEPHANT

Date:  28th February 2016

Species: African Elephant

Sex: Male

Age: Young Adult

Location: Ngutuni, Tsavo east National Park

History

Rangers from the Ngutuni sanctuary reported a dead young bull that was spotted near the Standard Gauge Railway that is currently under construction near Voi town. He was freshly dead and the neighbouring community were already dividing the meat among themselves. Low hanging live high voltage power lines was evidence enough of the cause of death.

Cause of Death

Death was by electrocution by high voltage main power lines.

Sadly this elephant was electrocuted

CASE#9 TREATMENT OF A SPEARED ELEPHANT BULL

Date:  28th February 2016

Species: African Elephant

Sex: Male

Age: Young adult

Location: Amboseli National Park

History

A team from the Big Life Foundation spotted a young elephant bull aged about 15 years old that looked sickly, had lost weight and could not move much. The vet was airlifted in the helicopter to the area for quicker response and the elephant was spotted in a thick bush nearby.

Immobilization, examination and treatment

The elephant was immobilised using 16mgs Etorphine Hcl in a 3 ml Dan - inject dart from a vehicle using a Dan inject dart. The first dart unfortunately hit the ear and discharged the drug so a second dart was prepared which was placed into the rump. He was immobilized after 5 minutes and went down lying on the injured flank. Ropes and a vehicle were used to roll him over to access the injured side. A penetrating spear wound with pus was observed to the left chest wall near the cardiac area and another to the skull. An incision was made to enlarge the wound so the pus could be drained and the dead flesh removed. The wound was cleaned using water mixed with Hydrogen peroxide, and then tincture of Iodine was sprayed on the wound before wetted green clay was applied.

The elephant is darted for treatment  Green clay is applied to facilitate healing

An intravenous administration of Dexamethasone Hcl was given through the ear vein and long acting Amoxicillin administered by intramuscular injections.

Reversal

Reversal of the anaesthetic was attained by intravenous administration of Diprenorphine hcl at 3 times the Etorphine dose. He struggled to get up so a vehicle was called in and ropes were used to assist the elephant onto his feet.

Other activities handled by the unit

Elephant trophies recovered from suspects were examined for authenticity and an expert report produced to assist in the prosecution of the offenders.

Acknowledgements

The unit would like to appreciate the support of its sponsors ViER PFOTEN through the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) for their continued support.  We also thank Kenya Wildlife Service through the Assistant director Tsavo conservation area and the head, veterinary and capture services department for their immense support to the unit.

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