The Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit
Field Report - November 2012
Return to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
Despite good amount of rains witnessed across the Tsavo region, cases of wildlife injuries continued to dominate veterinary interventions undertaken in the conservation area. Apart from clinicals, rescue of buffaloes and herpes disease surveillance in Elephants were also undertaken. The unit is expected to continue experiencing enhanced number of cases in coming months.
Investigation of a suspected rabid lion that attacked a security guard at Tsavo Camp, Tsavo East. 1st Nov
The carcass of a lion that was killed after attacking a night guard within Tsavo camp in northern Tsavo East National Park was delivered to Tsavo west Park offices but due to lack of refrigeration facilities it underwent decomposition and was not viable for any testing. Due to worries of rabies an investigation was carried out to determine if the lion could have been infected with rabies. After investigation that involved interviews and inspection with the camp staff, medical facilities in the area, owners of surrounding properties several conclusions were arrived at:-
The lion killed had the previous day been spotted being bitten by a crocodile about 300 metres from the camp along the Galana river, after which one of the pride female came to her rescue.
The leg bitten corresponds to the alleged lameness witnessed in the young lioness during the attack.
The young lioness was confused after being left behind by the pride.
There were no cases of domestic dog rabies reported by the local health and vet facilities at the time, wildlife rabies occurs through spill-over effect after the known maintenance host (domestic dog) get infected (current literature).
There were no signs of rabies observed in wild dogs spotted in the precincts of the hotel.
With the above information it was concluded that there is no prevailing rabies outbreak in wildlife populations in the park or the adjacent community areas but as a precautionary measure the injured guard was adviced to be given post exposure rabies vaccination.
Rescue of buffaloes stuck in a muddy dam in Taita salt lick sanctuary, 2nd Nov.
After the biting drought caused by the failure of the April-June long rains, many watering points including a dam in Taita hills wildlife sanctuary finally gave in leaving a muddy mass that made a graveyard of many buffaloes trying to quench their thirst.
The team was called in to save several young buffaloes that had survived the traumatic experience. About seven buffaloes were pulled to safety and allowed to rejoin the herd.
Examination and management of a snared lion from Lamu region, 6th Nov.
The lioness was brought to Tsavo research centre with a severe snare wound that cut through to the bones on the left foreleg. The lioness was trapped after preying on small stock occasioned by the severe leg injury. With very poor body condition and the severe injury, the lioness was found unable to survive in the wild and euthanasia was administered. Autopsy also revealed massive internal parasitaemia. The lioness must have survived the initial snaring but with the tight wire around the wrist, hunting was made impossible hence loss in body condition.
Immobilization and treatment of an injured Elephant in Sala gate area of Tsavo East, 7th Nov.
The elephant reportedly fell into a water dam after sustaining a leg injury suspected caused by an arrow shot. The young bull was found partially submerged in the muddy water with ocassional trunk raising for respiration.
Darting was done using 16mgs of etorphine in a dan inject system. The wounds were washed clean using water mixed with hydrogen peroxide and doused with iodine. A final coat of green clay was used to cover the wound. Parenteral antibiotics were administered to contain any systemic infection.
Prognosis is guarded
Treatment of an injured Elephant bull near power line area in Tsavo East, 11th Nov.
The Elephant was spotted near the power line with a wound on the flank that was oozing pus. It was immobilized using 17 mgs of etorphine alone.
The wound was cleaned using hydrogen peroxide mixed in clean water in a ratio of 1:1, then sprayed with iodine. Green clay was used to cover the wound for sterility.
Elephant Endotheliotrophic Herpes virus (EEHV) surveillance in Tsavo conservation area, 10- 20th Nov 2012.
EEHV is a viral disease of Elephants that infects and causes clinical signs only in juvenile elephants and deaths in Asian Elephant species. The disease causes nodular lesions in the trunk and usually self limiting. Several elephants were sampled opportunistically and blood and tissues samples from the lesions taken for molecular analysis in the newly inaugurated Kenya wildlife service lab. Immobilization was done using etorphine at respective dosages depending on to the body weight. Blood and tissues samples were aseptically sampled and immediately placed in liquid nitrogen. The study targets to understand disease status in wildlife populations in Kenya especially in Elephants.
Examination and treatment of problematic hyena in Tsavo East, 11th Nov.
A male hyena that preyed on livestock near Mutomo area of northern Tsavo East was finally trapped, captured and brought to Tsavo research centre for examination and release. The Hyena didnt show any signs of infection but was immobilized using Ketamine Hcl mixed with meditomidine then sampled for diagnosis and later released.
Treatment of an injured Elephant bull near Satao camp, Tsavo East, 12th Nov.
Satao camp is an important watering area for large Elephant bulls that inhabit the eastern boundary of the park. They are oftenly targeted by poachers using poisoned arrows. The huge bull was seen unusually in the same area for days without moving far. Closer observation revealed a huge wound on the side of the body.
Darting was done using 18 mgs of etorphine alone. Large chanks of dead tissues were cut off and copious amounts of pus drained. Hydrogen peroxide and iodine was used to clean the wound. A final coat of green clay used to cover the injury.
After anaesthetic reversal, he was unable to lift up necessitating assistance. The bull hit the Vet unit vehicle several times after being assisted to its feet but caused little damage to the vehicle.The wound is expected to heal.
Desnaring of a male Impala in Tsavo East Park hqrs, 19th Nov.
Impalas inhabiting areas near Voi are usually targeted for bush meat by the nearby communities. A male impala spotted with a tight snare was immobilized using 2 mgs of etorphine and 10 mgs xylazine. The tight snare around the neck cut off, wounds cleaned and antibiotics administered. Antisedan and diprenorphine was used to reverse the anaesthesia.
Treatment of an injured bull in Emusaya area of Tsavo East, 2nd Dec.
The bull spotted by The David Sheldrick wildlife Trust pilot was seen with a massive leg injury that made walking difficult. After two days of search he was spotted browsing with another bull 10 kms from Emusaya sector offices.
Darting was done using 18 mgs of etorphine and was separated from the other bull. The large wound on the left rear leg stretched from the inguinal area to the pedal joint. It is suspected caused by an arrow shot.
The wound was cleaned and dead tissues debrided then the wound was sprayed with iodine and oxytetracycline spray. A final application of green clay was applied.
Prognosis is guarded.
Treatment of an elephant Bull near Bachuma area,Tsavo East 3rd Dec.
This bull with a similar injury to the Emusaya bull was also seen in the same area for several days. Darting was done using 18 mgs of etorphine in a dan inject system.
Dead tissues were removed from the wounded right rear leg; the wound cleaned thoroughly using water mixed with hydrogen peroxide. A final coat of green clay and parenteral antibiotics were administered. Prognosis is guarded.
Other cases of concern
Cases of Elephant calf and adult deaths were witnessed in Shimba hills which were supposedly caused by natural and poaching attempts respectively. Few cases disappeared without trace after the reports were made and are still being sought.
The Tsavo Mobile Vet Unit (TMVU) will like to sincerely thank its Sponsors who have continued to fund the activities of the unit since its inception, VIER PFOTEN through the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) and not forgetting The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).
Report by: Dr Jeremiah Poghon