The Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit

Field Report - May 2011

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Introduction Tsavo ecosystem witnessed an episode of subnormal rains in the north and near normal rains in the south mainly due to the coastal effects on rainfall patterns along the coastline. With plenty of water in the temporary water points our main species, the elephants had abundant water and forage except for Tsavo National west Park where due to lush pastures mainly in the community areas of Mwakitau many elephants have invaded this region increasing the Human-wildlife conflict. Cases handled were few and involved rescue of a lion cub in Lamu area and treatment of an elephant that survived poaching along Galana River. Rescue of an injured weak lion cub from Lamu area 18th May 2011. The young emaciated and dehydrated cub was trapped in the Kenya Navy camp in Manda island area after reports of problematic carnivore cases were reported in the area. A cage was set and she was captured and later flown to Tsavo East Park with self inflicted injuries on the head and feet. On arrival she was put on oral glucose fluids and later milk and some beef. She was estimated at 3 months of age. She was later taken to Nairobi orphanage for proper care though the facility is now nearly full!

Preparing to feed the cub  The rescued cub after treatment for a bruised forehead

The lion cub gets checked by the vet

Treatment of an injured elephant in Galana Ranch conservancy near Tsavo East National Park 22nd May 2011. A sick elephant that survived a poaching attempt was reported around Galana River with signs of pain in the abdominal cavity. Another dead poached carcass lay a few hundred meters away. The team rushed in to save his life and several attempts were made to scare it out from the River but he stood his ground inside a small island surrounded by water infested with the Nile crocodiles and hippos. Several attempts proved futile and the exercise was aborted till the next day. Immobilization and Treatment Darting was done using etorphine filled dan injects system and the dart landed on the rump area. It took five minutes for the elephant to be fully immobilized. The wound was a typical puncture wound caused by high velocity trajectory with a clear entry and exit areas on opposite sides of the body. The wounds were cleaned with antiseptics and antimicrobial agents administered. Injectable antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs were administered. The elephant was rolled and the exit wound was also treated. On revival the elephant had difficulty waking up and it had to be assisted onto its feet by use of a rope tied on the tusks and pulled by a land cruiser. On coming to its feet it charged into one of the security vehicle and luckily no one was hurt!

Treating the elephant  Rolling the elephant over

Helping the elephant up  Charging a vehicle after treatment

Desnaring of an adult female water buck in Tsavo East National Park headquarters 31st May. Snaring is a common phenomenon along the fence line adjacent to Voi area where several snares are removed quite often by the desnaring team. The snares are meant for the small antelopes i.e. Impala, waterbuck, Dik dik and others for purpose of bush meat. The female waterbuck was seen wondering around with a loose wire on the neck. It was quickly immobilized and the wire removed. Antibiotic cover was also administered.

The snared waterbuck  The waterbuck is darted

The snare around the waterbuck's neck  Cutting the snare in order to remove it

Conclusion & acknowledgements A case of an elephant treated last month in Ngulia Rhino valley succumbed to its wound, the rest that were treated in the month of April are doing great. We anticipate a dry spell between now and September hence possible rise in number of cases. We acknowledge the immense support from our sponsors VIER PFOTEN through The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust who continue to fund the unit despite the ever rising costs of fuel and drugs. We also thank The Kenya Wildlife Service through the Head of Veterinary and capture services and the Assistant director Tsavo conservation area. Report by:Jeremiah Poghon The Mobile Veterinary Unit operated by The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust working with The Kenyah Wildlife Service and funded by Vier Pfoten