The Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit

Field Report - August 2011

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Introduction With failure of the May/June long rains in the Tsavo region many areas are fast drying up with pasture and forage disappearing at alarming rate, the usual problems of livestock incursion into protected areas and movement of wildlife into community lands is here with us again. These factors contribute to an increase in human-wildlife conflict in the region of which elephants are the most affected species followed by lions and arrows being the most common weapon used and snares coming in second. Some of the cases which were spotted the same day had to be prioritized due to the vast area covered by the unit. Rescue of an abandoned lion cub in Satao camp, Tsavo East.4th August. Lions are known to abandon their cubs due to various reasons which include attacks from a rival male, lionesses killed by buffaloes and other factors. This young female cub aged about 6 months old was rescued near satao camp looking very weak, dehydrated and on the brink of starvation. She was rehydrated and fed on glucose then small pieces of meat but succumbed to the condition 5 days later.

Capturing the lion cub  The abandoned cub

The cub is emaciated

Desnaring of an elephant bull in Galana Ranch Tsavo East; 5th August. Cases of elephants with snares are on the rise again; in this case an elephant was spotted with a wire snare around its neck within Galana Ranch bordering Tsavo East National Park. Immobilization was done by remote darting and the wire snare removed, wound around the neck was cleaned with antiseptics and antimicrobials applied. The elephant was given a clean bill of health thereafter and finally revived.

Preparing to dart the bull  The bull is darted

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

The snare wound after it is cleaned and treated  The elephant awake after treatment

Desnaring of a 2 month old elephant calf in Shimba Hills, coast region. 14th August. Shimba hills is a haven for elephants within the coast region, this young fellow was spotted with a tight ropy snare on the right front limb. The mother was immobilized while the calf was held down physically despite the many cries from her. The snare was removed, wound cleaned and antibacterials applied and finally administered with antibiotics.

Cutting the snare to remove it  The wound is disinfected

Treatment of a waterbuck with a hernia in Tsavo East headquarters, 16th August. The waterbuck presented with signs of great pain and reluctance to move, on examination a perforation on the right abdominal area was spotted which presented a great risk due to peritonitis. The perforation probably as a result of a fight seemed to be superficial and hence the area was shaved, cleaned and disinfected and skin sutured by use of nylon suture. High doses of antibiotics and anti-inflammatories were administered. He was revived and let free.

The waterbuck  The immobilzed waterbuck is laid down

Hernia on the abdomen

Autopsy on an elephant carcass in Ziwani area near Tsavo West, 17th August. The elephant was reported on the evening of 16th August but the team could not reach the area the same day, the following morning the elephant, a young male was found dead 500 meters from the previous location. Autopsy revealed an arrow wound on the left flank with large amounts of pus accumulating beneath the skin forming a large pool of toxins which must have been absorbed into the circulation causing shock and death.

The dead elephant  The vet performing the autopsy

Removing the tusks

Desnaring of a giraffe in Dakota area of Tsavo East National Park, 19th August. Dakota is an area on the southern part of Tsavo East that borders with ADC ranches. Several cases of snares have been seen in wildlife. The giraffe was spotted with a tight wire snare around the neck. She was immobilized and roped down as they dont usually go down on themselves. The snare was removed and the wound cleaned and antibiotics applied. She was declared out of danger.

The snare wound before treatment  The snare wound after treatment

The giraffe gets back to its feet

Treatment of a wounded Elephant cow at Ngutuni, Tsavo East; 21st August. Ngutuni forms a critical watering point for hundreds of wildlife around park headquarters where injured individuals are often spotted with the rest. This case a matriarch was seen with a big wound on the left side of the body with necrotic tissue parts hanging loosely. She was immobilized by use of 18 mg of etorphine alone in a dan inject dart system. The rest of the family refused to leave their immobilized mother and a vehicle had to be used to drive them away. The dead tissues were debrided and the wound cleaned with hydrogen peroxide and doused with betadine iodine. Green clay was used to cover the wound to keep off flies. Intramascular antibiotic was injected. Prognosis is guarded.

The immobilized injured elephant  Large wound near the left hind limb

The wound is cleaned  Disinfecting the wounds

Treatment of a lioness with hind limb paralysis in Aruba dam, Tsavo East 22nd August. The lioness was spotted stranded in the now dry Aruba dam in the morning of 22nd trying desperately to crawl out of the dam. She was immobilized by use of 3oo mgs of ketamine and 3 mg meditomidine. She was treated fed and released near a water point in Voi wildlife lodge area. Blood samples were taken to ascertain if the condition is due to mineral deficiency or an infection.

The paralyzed lioness  The lioness is darted

The lioness receiving treatment

Treatment of an elephant bull at Ziwani in Tsavo West, 23rd August. A male elephant was spotted alone near the boundary between Tsavo West and ziwani estate showing lameness on the left front limb. Darting was done using 20 mgs of etorphine. The limb was examined but no apparent injury was seen and suspected to have sustained a sprain. He was treated with flunixine meglumine and antibiotics. He was revived and given a guarded prognosis.

Examining the limb  The bull back on its feet

Collaring of a lioness (Shankiki) in Amboseli, 26th August. Collaring has been done for some years now in Amboseli to monitor lion movements and reduce conflicts associated with the carnivores. The lioness was spotted with two other lionesses. Darting was done using 300 mgs of ketamine and 3 mgs of meditomidine. Collar was placed and blood samples taken to test for Feline immunodeficiency virus. She was revived by use of 0.5 mls of atipemazole Hcl.

The immobilized lioness before collaring  The lioness is collared

Euthanasia of a gravely injured elephant in Kilaguni, Tsavo West. 30th August. This young female elephant is suspected to have been caught in a snare which caused extensive injury to the left hind limb after she struggled to free herself. There was another arrow shot injury on the right flank. After immobilization examination revealed that the distal part of the left hind limb had undergone gangrenous cell necrosis with no possibility of healing. She was subsequently euthanized to end her agony and pain.

Gangrene on the left hind leg

Acknowledgments The unit thanks its sponsors VIER PFOTEN through The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust for the continued support and The Kenya Wildlife Service for the technical support to the unit. The Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit operated by The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust working with The Kenyan Wildlife Service and funded by Vier Pfoten.