The Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit

Field Report - March 2011

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Introduction

The month of March had many challenges in terms of clinical interventions and other veterinary activities. The month also saw completion of two important activities both executed by the unit, these are elephant collaring exercise in Tsavo East National park and Rhino ear notching exercise successfully carried out in Tsavo West National Park. Despite favorable weather conditions case load was more than experienced in the month of February with elephant cases still the highest.

Treatment of an injured male elephant in Mbirikani Ranch near Amboseli N. Park 5th March.

The elephant was reported lame and moving with difficulty and exhibiting a lot of pain.

Treatment

Darting was done on a vehicle using a Dan-inject dart gun and a dart loaded with 18 mgs etorphine. It took about 8 minutes for the drug to take effect fully. The leg was examined and a suspected wound left by an arrow was visible and infected (septic) near the toes of the right front limb.

The wound was cleaned and with a mixture of water and hydrogen peroxide and tincture of iodine doused in the wound. Final oxytetracycline antibiotic spray was administered.

Parenteral dexamethasone and antibiotic were injected.

Examining the injury  The wound after treatment

The elephant awake after treatment

Prognosis

The wound is expected to fully heal within weeks.

Autopsy on a dead Elephant bull at Satao camp, Tsavo East National Park. 12th March.

Report of an injured elephant was received from Satao Camp and the team rushed in only to find the elephant had succumbed to the injuries. Thorough examination did not reveal any injury on the body apart from a seemingly small wound at the rump area.

Autopsy

Post mortem revealed a wound on the rump which upon being opened tissues beneath the skin were necrotized and there was accumulation of pus. On removal of the pussy material a sharp arrow head was exposed deep in the muscle tissues.

The fallen elephant  The small wound on the rump area

An arrow in the necrotized tissue, revealed during the post mortem  The arrow head retrieved from the necrotized tissue

Cause of death

Suspected poisoned arrow hit.

Treatment of a lame Elephant cow in Taita Ranch, 14th March.

Introduction

Taita Ranch is a community ranch on the southern part between Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks and forms a critical dispersal area of elephants from both Parks.

This is a case of an injured elephant that was sited by rangers from the Rukinga wildlife works alone and limping.

Immobilization and Treatment

Darting was done by use of dan inject gun loaded with 18 mgs of etorphine.

It took 5 minutes for full drug effect where detailed examination revealed no apparent injury and the lameness was associated with an old injury that healed.

The elephant was given antibiotic and anti- inflammatory cover.

Examining the immobilized elephant  The elephant awake after examination

Prognosis

Good

Elephant collaring exercise Tsavo East National Park, 15th -18th March.

Collaring of elephants in Tsavo East National Park with satellite collars was done to mark and understand the migratory patterns of elephants. The information derived from the study will assist in management decisions on Elephant-community conflict and other security matters.

A total of 5 elephants were collared out of the planned 8 due to failure of 3 collars.

3 male elephants and two female elephants were collared at Bachuma area, Sala gate area and finally Emusaya area of Tsavo East National Park.

The exercise funded by IFAW involved Helicopter darting and fitting of a satellite linked transmitter around the neck.

The unit provided the veterinary immobilization and care of the elephants during and after the operation.

A collar  Immobilized elephant for collaring

Collaring an elephant  Fastening the collar

Report on a dead Rhino “Shida’’ carcass at Ngulia sanctuary 19th March.

The male Rhino aged about 7 years old was rescued and raised in The David Sheldricks Wildlife Trust all its life until a decision was reached to move him to the sanctuary as it was too dangerous to continue hosting him at the orphanage.

The Rhino was finally translocated to the sanctuary where a person was attached to monitor his progress and assist in food supplementation.

It s carcass was sited on the evening of 18th March 2011 after the signal from the transmitter attached on the horn showed no signs of movements.

Autopsy

Not much autopsy could be carried out due to the advanced stage decomposition, but detailed examination revealed several scratch wounds on the abdomen and around the inguinal, one of the eyes was also gorged out.

Examination of Shida's carcass  Some of the scratch wounds on Shida's belly

Probable cause of death

The history of the Rhino being chased by a big territorial male and the lesions observed on the skin lead to the conclusion that the highly territorial species must have been killed by a bigger more aggressive male while protecting its territory.

Desnaring of an elephant cow near Galana River, Tsavo East Park 23rd March.

The elephant cow suspected still with a calf was spotted browsing along Galana River with a wire snare around the body near the chest area and wounds on the leg suspected caused by the dangling wire.

Darting was done using etorphine and physical separation was done by driving the family members away.

The wire snare was removed the wounds cleaned and antibiotic therapy instituted.

It was finally revived and released to join the family.

The elephant is darted  Cutting the snare to remove it

Disinfecting some wounds on the elephants hind legs  The elephant back on her feet

Prognosis

Good, complete healing expected

Treatment of a lame Elephant bull at Ngulia Rhino Valley, Tsavo West National Park. 25th March.

This male elephant suspected shot with an arrow was previously treated in the February 14th 2011 but didn’t resolve completely.

The wound on the medial aspect of the right front leg was again cleaned with antiseptics and iodine applied. Antibiotics and anti inflammatory drugs were administered.

The elephant whose condition is now poor was unable to stand up hence it was assisted onto its feet by the team.

The bull is darted  The wound before second treatment

Treatment in progress

Administering a long acting antibiotic

The immobilized elephant after treatment.  Assisting the bull to its feet

Prognosis

Guarded

Treatment of snared elephant bull at Komboyo airstrip, Tsavo West National 25th March.

This big bull has been elusive for a long time evading the team by running into the thick bushes that characterize Tsavo West Park.

This time it was spotted at the Komboyo water hole and promptly darted. The assistance of a fixed wing plane was critical in tracking it.

The snare was already out leaving a wound around the leg.

The wound was treated and released.

The immobilized bull  The snare wound

Treating the snare wound  Administering the reversal drug

The bull fully awake

Prognosis

Good.

Rhino ear notching exercise at Ngulia Rhino sanctuary, 28th – 31st March 2011 Tsavo West National Park.

Tsavo west Ngulia sanctuary forms part of a critical area in Rhino conservation in Kenya, nearly every 2-3 years young unidentified Rhinos are ear notched and fitted with transponders and sometimes transmitters for easy identification during patrols and census. The unit assisted in the darting and another team assisted on the ground.

In the exercise a total of 13 rhinos were ear notched in an operation that took 3 days to complete. Helicopter was used in the darting due to the dense vegetation.

The group was unable to site any rhino at the new extension of the sanctuary due to thick overgrowth that made the sitting difficult.

About to dart a rhino  A rhino is darted

The team at work  Marking the ear for notching

The notches are cut  Drilling to install a transponder

Conclusion

The unit is grateful for the support of its sponsors ViER PFOTEN through The David Sheldricks Wildlife Trust and The Kenya Wildlife Service.

Report by: Dr. Poghon J.

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