The Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit
Field Report - February 2009
From the same herd there was a large bull slightly lame on the right fore leg which had raised concern to the game scouts. However, there was no physical injury that was visible neither was there any swelling on the affected leg. There was sign of mild pain when walking but the animal could bear much of its weight on the leg. We suspected a sprain of the carpal joint resulting from the difficult rocky terrain in the area. Intervention was considered not necessary but the scouts were to monitor the progress.
On the same day we were requested to examine and advice the way forward regarding a sickly 20 year old elephant bull on the Tanzanian side of the border. The elephant had been seen in the same general area for four days and was neither feeding nor searching for water. The body condition was poor. It had no physical injuries. It would occasional stretch the legs which could have been a manifestation of abdominal pain. Groaning vocalisation and occasional kneeling on the front legs were some of the other signs reported to us. These were however not observed in the period we examined the elephant. There was no feasible treatment that could be given. Poisoning in the farms across the border in
The following day before we departed Amboseli back to Tsavo, we received the report of a 3-4 weeks old elephant calf that had been retrieved from a swamp by rangers at Kitirua area in Amboseli. The calf was confined by the rangers overnight. It looked healthy and we made arrangements for it to be airlifted to
On the 11th of February we were informed of a female adult eland with a snare on the left hind leg at
Between 12th and 17th February we collared two elephant bulls, one at the Tana Delta and the other in
Another case was that of a female buffalo at Satao in Tsavo East with both hock joints injured possibly from a predatory attack. It was in poor body condition, dehydrated (sunken eyes) and was unable to stand. It was euthanised to prevent further suffering. Also euthanised was a bull elephant at Olbili near Ol Donyo Wuas with a serious injury at the lower left fore leg near the carpal joint possibly from a spear that entered at the anterior and exited from the posterior aspects of the leg. The carpal bones were also affected and grating sensation of the bones could be felt when probed with a pair of forceps. There was heavy infection and the joint was likely infected. Much of the sole was detached from the foot pad. The entire leg was swollen and the animal could hardly move when approached on foot for darting as approach by vehicle was impossible because of bushes and rocky terrain. It moved only about five metres before the effects of the immobilisation drug took effect and it went down. We considered euthanasia the best option to stop further suffering.
From Ol Donyo Wuas we passed through Kimana sanctuary where Imbirikani group ranch game scouts were tracking an elephant seen lame on the left hind leg. They thought the female elephant which was in a herd of about 10 had an injury although they could not approach too close to confirm. However, we did not see any injury but the animal was naturally lame because the leg was slightly shorter. The warden Kimana sanctuary who joined us to examine the animal confirmed to have known the elephant for many years and that it was born with the abnormality. No intervention was done.
During the month we also examined and diagnosed hyperkeratosis of the skin of the foot at the junction of the sole/slipper/pad to be the condition afflicting
A two and half year old elephant calf was reported wandering alone at Ziwani farm next to Tsavo West with no other elephants in sight. However, we found it down and unable to stand up and was euthanised with 30ml 20% pentobarbital sodium. Another one year old calf was also put down after it failed progressively became weak and failed to stand up at the Voi elephant stockades. The calf had survived a bus accident at Bachuma area in Tsavo East in which two other elephants died.
The two elephants attended to in early Match and mentioned above were from the same family and are thought to have been injured across the border in
The other was an adult female with what seemed to be an injury from a high velocity object that penetrated the mid right fore leg from the side exiting from the opposite side. The wound was very narrow which means it was most likely a bullet. Although difficult to assess, it seemed the bone was not affected because the animal did not appear to be in a lot of pain. It could walk without much noticeable lameness and could bear full weight on the leg which is not the case if the bone was affected. The other injury was on the lower left abdominal area which was narrower that the one on the leg and not deep (it did not go beyond the skin).
Although difficult to determine the cause, we thought it was inflicted by an arrow. Injuries of elephants with arrows made from nails and without hooks are not uncommon in Amboseli. The arrows which are at times poisonous are easily plucked out by the elephant and leave very narrow penetrating wounds that may not be easily noticed until complications set in. Both injuries like in the first elephant were fresh and no infection had started to set in. they were cleaned and treated topically and intramuscular antibiotic cover administered. The prognosis for recovery seemed better than for the juvenile elephant. Both animals were also given an anti-inflammatory drug (Dexamethasone) injection. They will be monitored closely and updates relayed to relevant authorities.