The Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit

Field Report - March 2005

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There were three cases attended to this month; two in Tsavo East and one in Amboseli national parks. The first case in Tsavo East was at Aruba area and was of an elephant bull with a bullet wound at the right carpal joint. The bullet had not exited and could still be lodged in the body. It is not practically possible under field conditions to operate and remove it. The wound was deep (≥ ˝ foot) and heavily infected. The puss was cleaned out as much as was possible with water and hydrogen peroxide after which it was infused with a topical antibiotic. A high dose of a systemic antibiotic was also administered. The prognosis is guarded and depends on whether the bone is affected or not, something we could not establish in this particular case.

The elephant with a bullet wound is darted  The bullet had penetrated the right carpal joint

The puss was cleaned out as much as possible with water and hydrogen peroxide  The prognosis is guarded and depends on whether the bone is affected or not

The reversal drug is administered

If affected, it is unfavourable because of the resulting complications, which might include exostoses (abnormal bone growth) in response to the constant irritation by the bullet. However if not, fibrosis may encapsulate the bullet such that it will no longer be recognised as foreign by the body’s immune system in which case the animal will be able to live with it. Immobilisation for reassessment and a repeat treatment was to be done after about a week. However, the animal disappeared and has not been found again. With the onset of the long rains, most elephants have moved away from the area. Word has been sent out to tour drivers and rangers to call the unit if they see it. Meanwhile, the Unit has been going out to look for it and the search is still ongoing. The other case was of a seven year old elephant at Satao area that was reported to be limping heavily and could hardly move. After we immobilised it, we found it had a complete fracture of the right mid hind leg, (involving both the tibia and fibula). The fracture looked fresh and may have occurred the previous night. There was no skin breakage or any signs of trauma externally and the circumstances under which it occurred were difficult to tell. There was no effective medical or surgical intervention that could be given to treat this condition. To stop further suffering, it was humanely put down with 150ml of 20% Pentobarbitone Sodium (Euthatal®) intravenously. The tusks were recovered by KWS rangers.

The calf after being immobilised  It became evident that the hind leg was completely broken

After immobilising the calf it was found it had a complete fracture of the mid hind leg  The Satao calf's herd were obviously most distressed by the calf's plight and operation

The Amboseli case was also an elephant with a spear wound on the left rump. It was not serious and only involved the skin. The elephant had been sighted a day before the Unit was called. The injury was fresh and infection had not set in. It was cleaned and treated topically with an antibiotic ointment, and a systemic antibiotic cover was given. No further complication is expected.

The Amboseli bull suffered a single spear wound in the rump  The bull starts to run once hit by the dart on his left rump

The big bull falls asleep eventually and Dr. Ndeereh can begin cleaning the wound  The spear wound on the Amboseli bull's left rump

Waiting for the Amboseli bull to get to his feet having been given the reversal drug  The Amboseli  bull gets to his feet after the operation

Apart from the above activities, we also joined the Bura de-snaring team in some of their operations as well as patrolled and visited other areas that we cover.