The Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit

Field Report - January 2004

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This report describes the activities in the month of January 2004. Three elephants with spear wounds were treated in Amboseli. A cheetah, two Grants Gazelles and a lion were treated in Tsavo East, while an impala with a snare was treated in Tsavo West and an abandoned female zebra foal was rescued in Tsavo East. Two elephants, a male and a female, were reported with injuries on 7th January. Both had septic spear wounds (about 3 inches long), the male at the lower right abdomen penetrating into the abdominal cavity and the female at the lower right fore leg and also a small superficial injury at the perineal area probably sustained as the animal scratched itself against an object. The female seemed to be in a lot of pain and avoided putting weight on the leg. Both animals were immobilised with Etorphine Hcl (M99®). The female required a second dart to effect immobilisation as the first one did not discharge fully.

The vet darting the elephant  The elephant is darted

The elephant after being darted

The wounds were thoroughly cleaned and treated topically. The animals were also given an antibiotic cover of high doses of long acting Oxytetracycline. Reversal of narcosis was achieved by Diprenorphine Hcl (M5050®) administered intravenously. The male has not been seen again since the treatment while the female has slightly improved. It is being monitored to assess whether a second treatment will be necessary.

The wound seeping puss  The vet opens up the wound

Treating the wound  The leg wound after cleaning and treatment

An injured Cheetah was reported and treated at Aruba on the 10th Jan. It was a female with fresh wounds on the left hip and on the abdomen probably inflicted by its prey. Immobilisation was achieved by ketamine and xylazine Hcl both at 120mg in the same dart. The injury on the hip was deep and was treated and sutured with chromic cat-gut sutures which will eventually be absorbed by the body. The injury on the abdomen was superficial and involved the top layers of the skin only. The animal was given an antibiotic cover of Amoxycillin (Betamox®). Xylazine was reversed with 15mg of Atipamezole (Antisedan®). Ketamine however, has no reversal agent but it gets metabolised and excreted within a few hours. The animal was observed until it recovered its effects. The prognosis for its recovery is good. The cheetah was subsequently monitored and was fed with 5kg of beef meat on 12th Jan after it was found still alone and hungry. The wound on the hip was observed to have apposed nicely. It was again sighted on the 13th Jan but was lost thereafter and has not been seen again to date. Hopefully it rejoined its group.

The anesthetised cheetah  The cheetahs wouunds before treatment

The cheetahs wounds after treatment  The cheetah awake after the operation

Two out of three Grants Gazelles with mange were immobilised and treated with Ivermectin on 18th and 21st Jan near Sala Gate. The two were ear notched after treatment for identification to avoid any mix up just in case others come down with the disease. They are still being monitored for response. Attempts to dart the third one were futile as it was unapproachable to within darting distance. After a prolonged attempt it became over excited and ran into very difficult terrain. It will be given some time to forget the experience before we go for it again.

The Grant Gazelle after its wounds are cleaned and treated

A limping Elephant was reported near Buchuma Gate on the 20th Jan. It was aged about 8-9 years. It was limping with the right hind leg but on observation there was no injury or any evidence of pain, but this leg looked shorter than the left. No intervention was made. Further information from the park management revealed that the animal has been seen like this since it was young. A female zebra foal aged about a week was rescued by the de-snaring team at Dida Hare area within Tsavo East. No abnormality was detected on physical examination. It was given some long acting antibiotic and a multi- vitamin injection. It died before it was taken to Nairobi for adoption from unknown causes as the carcass was disposed off before an autopsy was done. A male male impala with a wire snare around its head was sighted on the 23rd Jan as we were looking for a zebra with a snare around the neck, which was however not found. The impala was immobilised and the snare removed.

The Impala caught in the snare  The Impala with the snare around its head

The snare cutting into the Impala's neck  The impala after its wounds are cleaned and treated

An injured Elephant in Amboseli was reported on 26 th. Jan The tusk-less female elephant had a moderately infected spear wound going through the upper part of the trunk near the base and was attended to . It had a small calf aged about 3 weeks and was in the company of a herd of about 15. After immobilisation, the other elephants were driven away to a safe distance. The wound was cleaned and a long acting antibiotic (20% Oxytetracycline) administered intramuscularly. The elephant was rejoined with the other elephants and its calf after reversal of narcosis. The prognosis for recovery is good.

The sedated elephant before treatement  The wound in the elephants trunk

The sedated elephant after treatment  The elephant awake and walking

The elephant rejoins its herd

lion spotted at Ndara plains had a swelling that was confirmed by aspiration to be an abscess on the right forepaw. Before immobilisation, we thought a foreign object was lodged on the paw as the animal walked carrying the leg and seemed to be in a lot of pain. The abscess was lanced and the entire puss squeezed out until blood came out. No foreign object was found and the cause of the abscess was uncertain. It was then flushed with hydrogen peroxide before infusing dilute Lugol’s iodine and an antibiotic ointment (Opticlox®) and sprayed with a fly repellent. The animal was also given a long acting antibiotic cover (Betamox®). Dart wounds (animal was immobilised with two darts composed of xylazine mixed with ketamine) were treated with Opticlox® which was also applied to the eyes. Xylazine was reversed with Atipamezole Hcl but Ketamine has no reversal. Thus the animal remains drowsy for a few hours before the drug is cleared from the body.

The darted lion  The vet cuts the lions wound

The vet squeezes the lions wound to clean it

Elephants in Amboseli frequently cross the border into Tanzania in droves where they destroy crops. Spear and arrow injuries are not uncommon in the ensuing conflict. The conflict had escalated during the recent dry spell but it is hoped that it will subside with the rains being experienced currently. It is strongly believed that the three elephants treated sustained the injuries in Tanzania. All the cases reported to the unit were responded to rapidly. All were located and treated accordingly except one male zebra near Chyulu gate with a wire snare around its neck. It was searched for two days to no avail. The search was made more difficult by the rocky terrain between Chyulu Gate and the Shetani Lava flow where it had been sighted. This made off road driving extremely difficult. Most of the animals so far treated from November to date have not been seen. However, we have received reports that the elephants treated in Shimba Hills and Taita Ranch in December have improved significantly. Most of the other animals had favourable prognoses, and it is hoped that they have already recovered. Progress will continue to be sought from the managements of the respective parks.