The Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit

Field Report - May 2009

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There were 11 interventions this month of which nine were due to injuries from human causes while two were from natural causes. Of the nine cases due to human causes, five were from arrows, one from a spear and two from snaring while the last was from a car accident.

Three of the cases from arrows involved rehabilitated elephants released into the wild about two years ago. One of these elephants christened Lolokwe had two arrow heads one lodged at the right shoulder and the other at the right fore leg.

Lolokwe is darted  Both the arrow wounds were infected

Removing the arrow head from the leg wound  Removing the arrow head from the shoulder

The two arrow heads removed from Lolokwe

Lolokwe gets back to his feet

Another elephant called Natumi had the arrow head deeply lodged at the right shoulder. Both these elephants were sighted and treated after they visited the elephant stockades at Voi.

Natumi is darted  Removing the arrow head from Natumi

Cleaning Natumi's arrow wound  Natumi getting up after the reversal drug is administered

The third of these elephants called Irima had an arrow injury on the left thigh and was treated at Ngutuni sanctuary. Examination did not reveal any foreign body inside.

Irima is darted  The arrow wound before treatment

The arrow wound after it is cleaned and treated  Irima back on his feet after treatment

The injuries in the three elephants were infected. They were cleaned thoroughly with water and hydrogen peroxide and topically treated with dilute lugol’s iodine or an antibiotic ointment. An antibiotic cover was administered intramuscularly. The prognosis for recovery was good in all these elephants. Lolokwe and Natumi were the first to be treated and have made good progress towards recovery. Irima was treated towards the end on the month on the 26th.

The fourth elephant with an arrow head deeply lodged at the medial aspect of the right fore leg was treated at Rukinga ranch. The injury was heavily infected and extensively spread under the skin. Necrotic tissues were debrided after cleaning the wound. It was topically treated and an antibiotic cover given.

The elephant before it is darted  The arrow wound before treatment

The arrow head that was retrieved from the elephant  The wound after it is cleaned

Disinfecting the wound

The elephant after treatment

There was need for a second treatment but it will be difficult to sight the animal again because of the vastness of the area and dense bushes.

On the 28th another juvenile elephant was also treated for an arrow injury near the Voi gate. The injury was mildly infected and in the process of recovering. It had no foreign object inside.

The immobilised elephant  The injury was on the right thigh

A close up of the wound before treatment

Probing the wound

The spear injury also involved a bull elephant at Ol Donyo Wuas sanctuary in the Chyulu Hills. The injury was at the lower right hind leg and was mildly infected but deep. The prognosis for its recovery was good. We have received reports that the elephant is frequently seen at the sanctuary water hole and has recovered.

The elephant goes down after being darted

The wound before treatment  Cleaning the wound

The elephant gets back to its feet

The snare was removed from a 4-year-old elephant at Taita Salt Lick sanctuary. The snare was tight and had inflicted some injury on the left ear and the neck but the prognosis was good.

The immobilised calf  The snare being removed from the calf

The calf rejoins its mother

The second elephant with a snare was also treated at the Salt Lick sanctuary on the 28th. The winch cable snare was so tight and deeply embedded causing a severe and extensive injury. Very high doses of an antibiotic were given and the wound cleaned thoroughly. The sanctuary scouts will keep an eye on it and monitor progress so that a second treatment can be administered if found necessary after about two weeks. 

The elephant goes down after darting

The wound caused by the snare  The snare is deeply embedded

Cutting the snare in order to remove it  The wound after the snare is removed

The wound caused by the snare after treatment

The elephant back on its feet  The removed snare

A zebra foal was knocked by a vehicle at Manyani shopping centre and sustained multiple fractures at different levels of the left hind leg. It was euthanised with 20% pentobarbital sodium intravenously to stop further suffering because no treatment was feasible under field conditions.

Examining the zebra before it was euthanized

We could not establish the cause of death of a young hippo at Mzima springs because it was impossible to retrieve the carcass from the water. However, it is possible that the death was drought related following the prolonged dry spell and negative impacts on vegetation by livestock in the area. Also still undergoing further investigation is the cause of deaths of several impalas around Finch Hattons area in Tsavo West.

The post mortem is conducted on the Impala

 The deaths occurred after the rains following a prolonged dry spell since 2008. Post mortem of one impala found relatively fresh did not reveal any significant findings. The animals are die while apparently health and do not manifest any signs apart from some struggle before death. We highly suspect that the impalas could be feeding on some poisonous plants which may have sprout after poor rains in the area. The rains have been very inadequate and vegetation is yet to regenerate. No other animal species are involved though very few are found in the area. Impalas are highly concentrated around the hotel. We suspect the impalas may be unable to select the palatable from unpalatable plant species.

Report by: Dr. David Ndeereh

The Mobile Veterinary Unit operated by The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust working with The Kenyan Wildlfie Service and funded by Vier Pfoten