The Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit

Field Report - March 2012

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Introduction Tsavo vet unit continues to observe cases of arrow shot injuries with higher incidences in big elephant males suspected to be poaching attempts and not conflict related as previously experienced. Signs of impending rains have been observed and injury cases are expected to reduce in the month of April. The unit also participated in Rhino ear notching in Ngulia sanctuary and Elephant collaring within Tsavo conservation area. Ngulia Rhino ear notching exercise, 5th to 10th March 2012 Ear notches are critical in Rhino identification and monitoring. Ear notching is an exercise done routinely as the young calves mature and also to capture the ones missed in the previous exercise. Replacement of transmitters was also done in the IPZ (intensive protection zone). In total 11 Rhinos were ear notched and six were captured and transmitter replaced. The exercise was done with assistance of the veterinary and capture team from Kenya wildlife service headquarters. Tsavo elephant collaring operation, 18th to 23rd March 2012. After last years collaring operation where a total of 5 elephants were collared, there arose a need to collar more elephants in order to gather more data on the elephants. A total of 9 elephants were collared both in Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks. Methodology The operation was scheduled on cool hours in of the morning and late afternoon in order to minimize complications caused by high temperatures that currently prevail in the Tsavo region. 3 cc darts filled with 17 mgs of etorphine and 1000 i.u of hyalase and 18 mgs and 1000 i.u of hyalase were used to immobilize cows and bulls respectively. The darts were propelled by a gas operated dan-inject dart gun from the safety of a Helicopter. The Helicopter was also used to herd the darted elephant close to the roads and away from thick bushes and bad terrain in addition to provision of security to the ground team. After the Elephant fell down it was immediately secured to a good position by the ground team which composed of a vet doctor and capture staff. Various physiological parameters were monitored and appropriate treatment instituted. Collaring was done quickly and took between 9-25 minutes depending on specific challenges. Blood and parasitic samples were taken for lab analysis. Revival was done using an opiod antagonist diprenorphine at three times the etorphine dose. Close monitoring was done at a distance until the Elephant was on its feet and walking before the team left the area.

The collaring team  Immobilized elephant for collaring

Putting the collar on the elephant  The collared elephant awake after reversal drug is administered

Treatment of an elephant calf with a wire snare on the trunk in Taita hills sanctuary 23rd March. The young calf accompanied with the mother was sighted in Salt lick watering hole with a tight wire snare around the trunk that nearly severed the trunk. Due to the danger posed by the family especially the mother, she had to be darted to enable the capture of the calf and treatment. Drating of the mother was done using 16 mgs of etorphine alone. The calf was separated, desnared, wounds treated and antibiotics applied. The mother was revived and allowed to rejoin the calf and the family.

The immobilized mother  The calf is captured

The calf's truck nearly severed by the snare  The mother awake after the reversal drug is administered

Mother and calf reunited

Rescue of a recumbent Female elephant in Lualenyi ranch, 24th March. A case of a female tuskless elephant reported within Lualenyi ranch lying down for a whole night. Examination revealed no external wound but a swelling on the left shoulder. Several attempts to assist her up were fruitless as she went down immediately in great pain. A tentative diagnosis and a decision was made to euthanize her. After euthanasia the diagnosis of a complete fracture of the left humeral bone was confirmed.

The recumbent elephant  Helping the elephant to its feet

Broken ends of the left humerus bone

Autopsy of an elephant carcass in Satao, Tsavo East, 30th March. Satao camp located in the middle southern part of Tsavo east has entered into our records as one of the flash points of poaching related arrow shots. A case in point is of this adult male elephant that collapsed near a water hole in Satao shortly after drinking water. Autopsy revealed an area near the rump that was a typical arrow wound though the arrow head was not retrieved.

The dead elephant  The arrow wound

Treatment of an Elephant with an arrow wound in Satao, Tsavo east 31st March. A day after the autopsy of the dead elephant in Satao, we were back again to treat a lucky individual. Darting was done using 18 mgs of etorphine and he fell in 8 minutes. Hanging parts of skin and dead flesh on the left side of the abdominal wall were cut off, pus drained and wound cleaned using a mixture of water and hydrogen peroxide then finally doused with tincture of iodine. An oxytetracycline spray and green clay was finally applied. He was finally declared out of danger.

The injured elephant is darted  The wound before treatment

The arrow still embedded in the wound  The wound is cleaned and hanging skin and flesh removed

The wound after treatment  The elephant awake after the reversal drug is administered

Autopsy of a dead elephant calf in Satao, Tsavo east 31st March After saving the massive bull the vet team encountered a dead elephant calf that appeared thin. Post mortem examination revealed deep penetrating wounds on various parts of the body suspected to be due to lion predation attempts. Death was from bacterial septicaemia.

The dead calf  One of the deep wounds on the calf

Report by: Dr. Jeremiah Poghon The Mobile Veterinary Unit operated by The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust working with The Kenyan Wildlife Service and funded by Vier Pfoten.