The Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit

Field Report - February 2005

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February started with the report of a giraffe with a snare around its neck near Satao camp within Tsavo East National Park. Unfortunately, it was in a very difficult terrain with dense bush to work in and all attempts to approach and dart it for two days were futile. Following this disturbance, it disappeared and was not seen in three subsequent visits to the area. It reappeared again on the 18th February, almost three weeks after it was first reported. This time it was in a relatively good terrain. It was successfully immobilised, the snare removed and the inflicted wound cleaned and treated. Some systemic antibiotics were also given. Earlier on the 14th before the above operation, we had been called to look at two ‘injured’ elephants within Tsavo East. The first was at Sobo along the Galana River.

The Sobo bull located in the Galana river  Burst abscess clearly visible on the bulls left shoulder

The report indicated that it had a wound on the left shoulder but we found this to be a small abscess that was already ruptured and of no consequence.

The Sobo bull  Sobo bull with an abscess on his shoulder

The animal was using the leg normally and manifested no sign of any deep seated infection. Immobilisation and treatment was considered to be of no value. The second elephant was between Aruba and Sala and the report indicated that it had a fractured right hind leg. We however found this elephant to be the same one that has been reported to the Unit several times before. The mid section of the leg is bent probably due to a malunion of a fracture sustained when it was young. The elephant seems to range widely as we have previously seen it in other parts of the park. There is no treatment that can be given.

The young lame bull

And on the 15th we were in Ithumba to examine a male leopard. While the area has abundant prey especially during the dry season as most animals come down to the river. This leopard had lost body condition and we were called to examine it and offer advice. We immobilised it to enable a detailed physical examination.

Leopard being treated  Physical examination of leopard

No significant findings were found except the marked lose of body weight, as well as the pallor of the mucous membranes. These signs were attributed to malnutrition because there is no prey along the river at the moment. Following the December rains, the animals dispersed into areas far from the river and are expected to congregate along it after it becomes dry and water and feed become scarce in these deep areas. The leopard may be unable to follow the herbivores when they disperse probably due to territorial aggression from other leopards. There are reportedly three others next to its territory and at its age it may be unable to establish and defend itself in other prime areas. Supplementation was recommended until the herbivores come back. Meanwhile, the animal was given a multivitamin injection, systemic antibiotics and an anti-parasitic drug (Ivermectin). On return from Ithumba we found reports of a giraffe with two arrow heads lodged on the left abdominal area at Iltilal on the Southern boundary of Tsavo West as well as that of an injured elephant at Oldonyo Wuas within Imbirikani group ranch near Amboseli national park. We left the following morning to treat these animals. However, the giraffe was not found and has not been seen again to date. It is highly suspected that it could have succumbed to the injuries. The elephant was also not seen for two days and we had to call off the operation to go back to Tsavo East to attend to the giraffe reported above after it was sighted again. We went back to Oldonyo Wuas on the 22nd when the elephant reappeared. The area is densely forested and normally treatment is done at a water hole near the ranch hotel. By the time we arrived, the elephant had already retreated back into the forest. It did not come to the water hole until the morning of the 24th. It had a swelling on the inner side of the left stifle joint that was interfering with movement. The animal could however bear its full weight on the leg and did not manifest signs of pain when walking. It was immobilised for a detailed examination and treatment.

Oldonyo Wuas elephant asleep awaiting treatement  Oldonyuo Wuas elephant being treated

The swelling was firm from fibrosis and there was no puss on aspiration and exploration of some three deep openings. Only blood came out on making deep incisions on the swelling.

Close up shots of the wound

The cause of the injury could not be determined. The animal will be lame for a long time as the fibrotic tissue may not resolve quickly. Systemic antibiotics were given and the three openings cleaned and treated.

Oldonyo Wuas elephant being given the reversal drug  Oldonyo Wuas elephant getting up

We left for Voi after the above operation to find the report of a giraffe carrying a snare around its neck at Dika plains within Tsavo East. We didn’t find it however, but the search is still ongoing. On various dates this month, the Unit also visited other areas under its jurisdiction and talked to the respective managements. Many areas reported no incidences of injury or sicknesses to the animals. We also sought information about the progress of the elephant treated in Amboseli in January. We were informed that the bull christened Martin is frequently sighted nowadays and that it fully recovered and resumed full use of the leg.

The mobile vet unit car repainted