The Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit

Field Report - July 2012

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Introduction With the prevailing dry spell occasioned by failure of May/June rains there was general increase in case load within the ecosystem with Tsavo ecosystem experiencing an increase in Elephant conflict related injuries. Arrow wound cases were the most common followed by snaring. The dry weather condition is expected to prevail until November when the short rains are expected. Removal of a failed collar in an Elephant in Komboyo area of Tsavo West, 10th July. Collars on Elephants deployed early this year continue to do well with most sending satellite data of their movements and home ranges. Few collars developed problems that varied from temporary inactivity to complete non performance. One collar that didnt send signals was earmarked for removal in an exercise that was carried out on 10th July 2012. Darting was done using 18 mgs of Etorphine from a chopper. The collar was removed, the Elephant sampled and revived.

Unit tranquilizes the elephant  Collar is removed

Desnaring of an Elephant at Satao area, Tsavo East. 11th July. Due to the prevailing dry conditions Satao remains the only watering point between Galana River and Voi. Large herds make their way to this vital water points where injuries are observed. A case of snared Elephant was spotted in Satao area of Tsavo East with a wire snare tightly around its upper jaw. Darting was done using 17 mgs of etorphine. The snare was cut loose; snare wounds around the ear, inside the palate and face were cleaned, disinfected and a bleeding vein sutured. The wounds behind the ear and on the upper palate will take time but expected to heal.

Snared elephant treated by the vet unit  Snare is removed and wound treated

Elephant is treated and revived successfully

Rescue of Buffalo calf from Pipeline mud hole in Tsavo East, 14th July. The dry spell comes with challenges of getting water especially for the highly water dependent species of Buffaloes and Elephants. A Buffalo calf got stuck in mud after attempts to drink landed it in mud. After several attempts it was finally pulled and given a shower to clean the eyes.

Buffalo calf rescued from the mud  Calf is cleaned up

Treatment of an injured Elephant in Sala gate area, Tsavo East 14th July Sala gate area is in the extreme eastern boundary of the park with a population of mostly big bulls staying in bachelor groups. Injuries here are thought to be poaching attempts as the massive 6 tonne bulls have huge tusks. The bull was spotted with hanging tissues around the abdominal area.Immobilization was done using 18 mgs etorphine and took 5 minute to go down.Two big wounds in front of the preputial sheath mixed with pus and necrotic tissues were cut off, wounded site cleaned with hydrogen peroxide, iodine applied and a final antibiotic spray. A final coat of green clay was applied. The wounds are expected to heal fully.

Vet treats the elephant  wounds are treated

Immobilization and euthanasia of female Elephant at Taita ranch, 15th July. The young adult female Elephant was spotted near a watering area within Taita ranch and appeared to be in a lot pain. Immobilization was done using 16 mgs of etorphine alone. After thorough examination through palpation a diagnosis of complete fracture caused by a bullet injury was arrived at and due to poor healing prognosis she was marked for euthanasia.She was euthanized and further autopsy confirmed the diagnosis.

Vet treats the elephant  The wound is treated

Treatment of an injured young elephant bull at Satao area Tsavo East, 20th July. Satao continues to be a focal point in Elephant injuries due to its location as the only watering point after Galana River. A young bull was seen in the watering hole in pain and the team rushed to the site while on their way to Ithumba to treat another reported injured bull. Darting was done using 14 mgs of etorphine and on the left thigh near the knee joint. Wounds were cleaned with antiseptics and both antibiotics and anti inflammatories administered intramuscularly.

Elephant is darted for treatment  Elephant is treated by the vet

The elephant is revived after treatment

Treatment of an adult Elephant bull in Ithumba area of Tsavo East, 20th July. Cases of arrow wounds continued to dominate veterinary interventions within the Tsavo ecosystem. This is attributed to poaching and conflict incidences. A case of injured Elephant bering massive tusks was spotted by the David Sheldrick Trusts executive director Mrs Angela Sheldrick while on a field tour at Ithumba orphanage and promptly reported to the unit. Enroute to Ithumba the team had to attend to another case in Satao as reported above before proceeding to Ithumba. After several hours of waiting, the injured elephant together with four other males arrived around 6 P.M in the evening. Darting was done using 18 mgs of etorphine propelled from a dan inject darting system. Unfortunately the elephant fell on the injured side and after several attempts to roll him over using the units landcruiser, a tractor was called in to move 6 tonnes of flesh! The wound located near the right inquinal area had caused accumulation of massive amounts of pus and tissue debris. An arrow head was removed and an incision made on the lowermost part of the injury to drain off copious amounts of pus. A mixture of iodine and water in one to one ratio was used to lavage the infected wound. Tincture of iodine, oxytetracyline spray and a final coat of green clay applied. The Elephant is expected to recover from the traumatic poaching attempt.

Elephant is darted  Vet removes the arrow

Vet treats the wound

Treatment of a snared Elephant in Chala area of Kenya/Tanzania border, 23rd July. Chala area is a prime foraging land in the border between Kenya and Tanzania with Elephants moving between Tsavo West National Park and Tanzania. The injured female Elephant was spotted in the area but by the time the team arrived she had crossed to Tanzania. She was immobilized using 16 mgs of etorphine and a tight wire snare around the left front limb cut off, wounds cleaned and antimicrobials applied. Parenteral antibiotics and anti inflammatories were administered to control infection. The snare had cut deep into the tissues and healing is expected to take long.

Elephant is located and darted  Elephant is prepared for treatment

Snare is removed and wound treated

Conclusion This years weather conditions are expected to remain dry which normally relates to an increase of conflict related cases but a recent improvement in security situation is expected to reduce injuries from poaching attempts. Acknowledgements The Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit would like to thank its sponsors Vier Pfoten through the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust for their continued support to the unit and not forgetting The Kenya Wildlife Service through the Head Veterinary and Capture Services and The assistant director Tsavo conservation area. 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.