The Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit
Field Report - June 2009
The same was the case in one of the zebras. However, the other zebra was pulling a log from the abdomen and though the snare was still very fresh when sighted, it had inflicted some mild injury. The buffalo was in thickets where the search was difficult. The sanctuary scouts will monitor it and report back when it appears in a relatively better terrain. Unfortunately for the adult lioness which was on heat and in the company of a male lion and got snared while being watched by the Taita ranch lion research team, it died just a few minutes before we arrived. Soon after being entrapped by the snare which was tied to a piece of wood, the lioness got excited and started to run around. In the process, the piece of wound got entangled onto a tree prompting the lioness to struggle and strangulated itself to death.
Four elephants were reported with arrow injuries but only was one was found and treated at Taita Salt Lick. The injury was at the left carpal joint area and the leg was very swollen and lame. It was infected and oozing some pus. The animal had been sighted lying down frequently at the Salt Lick Lodge water hole. It was highly suspected that the arrow might have been poisoned due to the extent of the reaction despite not being deep. The wound was cleaned and treated and besides a systemic antibiotic being administered, an anti-inflammatory and analgesic corticosteroid drug was also given. The prognosis is guarded especially if the infection spreads into the joint. The animal had lost body condition and was moving with difficulties. Two other elephants one each at Teita Sisal Estate and Taita salt Lick with arrows lodged on the hind legs were not found. The former had been sighted in the sisal plantation at night during problem animal control (PAC) while the latter was reported while we were in Amboseli for a lion and elephant cases. Their search did not yield fruits and there have been no further reports about them. Also not found was a female elephant within a herd at RhinoValley in Tsavo West with a suspected extensive and infected wound from an arrow injury on the left abdominal area. The search is ongoing and the Intensive Protection Zone (IPZ) patrol rangers are on the look out and will report back if sighted again.
Two elephants were successfully treated for spear wounds at Amboseli and Kuku A group ranch near Iltilal shopping centre. The former had been sighted with the spear still hanging from the left abdomen but it dropped off before we arrived. The wound looked fresh and infection was just setting in. There was no abdominal penetration which gives the elephant a good prognosis. The Iltilal elephant had three old and infected spear wounds on the right rump, abdomen and fore leg. They were cleaned thoroughly and necrotic tissues trimmed off. High doses of a long acting amoxicillin antibiotic were given. The elephant was weak and had to be supported to stand after treatment. The ranch scouts promised to monitor it closely and report progress.
The third elephant with a spear injury on the left chest failed to stand up even with support after treatment and reversal and died soon after. PM revealed internal injuries whereby the lungs and stomach were punctured. Tissues around the injury were emphysematous (had accumulated air escaping from the punctured lungs). There was internal haemorrhage and infection. Previously during treatment, the animal had been noted to have dyspnoea (laboured breathing) and was anaemic (pale oral mucous membranes and tongue) that were during PM attributed to the injury on the lung and internal haemorrhage respectively. It had been difficult to assess the extent of the injury ante-mortem because the wound was healing externally and there was no evidence of any discharges. The spear had entered in between two ribs. The prognosis would have been poor even if the animal had managed to stand up and it was just a matter of time before it succumbed to the injuries. It had lost body condition. The elephant also had a ruptured abscess at the rear which was unrelated to the injury and was of no consequence. It too had been cleaned and debrided off necrotic tissues and foreign matter.
While treating the elephant with the spear wound in Amboseli, we also examined an adult lion with fight wounds from another male. Injuries were on the head only. There was moderate tissue reaction resulting to swelling of the face. However because the animal was ambulating without difficulties and the injuries were not serious, intervention was considered not necessary. It was in the company of another adult male lion. The two lions involved in the fight are amongst the five being monitored in a joint project by KWS and Leiden UniversityNetherlands for their movement patterns.
During the month, we immobilised to examine an adult bull elephant that was severely lame on the left hind leg from what appeared to be swelling of the leg above the hock joint. We could not determine the cause of the swelling from far because there was no external injury. Examination after immobilisation did not reveal any external injury either and the animal was revived. The lameness could be due to an injury that possibly involved the bone long time ago. At Teita Sisal estate, there was also the report of a young elephant calf said to be alone and possibly having an injury. We however found the calf too big for captive confinement (>5 years) and foraging in an abandoned sisal plantation. Close observation did not reveal any abnormal findings with it.
Table summarising the clinical interventions in June 2009
The other interventions in June were the relocation of four rhinos from the Ngulia black rhino sanctuary to the RhinoValley in Tsavo West bringing the total number of rhinos so far in the valley to 12. The objective is to improve the performance of the rhinos in the sanctuary by reducing competition for resources (space, browse and water). The Rhino valley has adequate water and browse and the rhinos so far moved there in October last year have improved conditions. Also driven out from the sanctuary were over 220 buffaloes whose conditions had deteriorated due inadequate grass following a prolonged dry spell in the area since 2008. They also competed with the rhinos for the water necessitating their removal. Unfortunately, some of them have broken in back. Many of them having been born in the sanctuary are unfamiliar with the surrounding and could not locate watering points prompting them to try and get back.
A six months old elephant calf was also rescued at Ndara area by rangers and subsequently flown to Nairobi for rehabilitation and eventual release back to the wild. It is reported to be so far doing well.
The several elephants treated for arrow injuries as well as the bull treated with a deeply embedded snare at Taita Salt Lick have not been sighted again to review progress. It would have been interesting to evaluate the condition of the snare injury which was very extensive and infected. The Salt Lick scouts have been asked to report any sightings.
There has been an upsurge of incidences of animal injuries particularly at Taita Salt Lick in the recent past which is of great concern to conservation managers. Day and night patrols as well as de-snaring exercises have been intensified with a view to deter the illegal activities. It is hoped that this endeavour will bore fruits and there will be a decline of animal injuries.