The Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit

Field Report - December 2003

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TSAVO MOBILE VETERINARY UNIT: MONTHLY REPORT REPORTING PERIOD: 1ST- 22ND DECEMBER 2003 REPORTED BY: DR. DAVID NDEEREH This report describes the veterinary activities in the month of December. Four cases were reported and all were responded to. The cases are described in detail below. Lioness The case was reported by tour drivers at Voi gate on 3rd Dec and had been sighted along Aruba River Circuit GPS S 0321.702' E 03848.521'. The message stated that the lioness was dead and its four small cubs were seen playing with the mother oblivious that it was already dead. However on arrival at the site, we found out that the lioness was actually not dead but was too emaciated and very weak to even be able to stand up. No external injuries were visible. It was suspected to be a long standing case of starvation. The cubs belonged to another lioness which was nearby and probably belonging to the same family. The second lioness looked healthy and in good body condition, with no visible abnormalities. It was assessed that the animal was too weak to withstand anaesthesia and the associated stress of capture to enable diagnosis of the problem. Thus feeding was recommended before any treatment could be instituted. It was provided with 10kg of beef and as it was feeding, we observed that most of the teeth were missing. It occurred to us that it was a case of old age and euthanasia was recommended. The go ahead to put it down was granted by the AD the next day. On return however, the lioness could not be traced even for the subsequent three days. The one with the cubs continues to be seen to date while the weak one has disappeared completely. We have sent out word that next time it is sighted, the information should be relayed to the unit for appropriate action. Wounded Elephant in Taita Ranch The report was received on the afternoon of 3rdDec. from Buchuma gate when we were out following the above lioness. It stated that the elephant was dragging its left hind leg which looked swollen. We responded and informed them to monitor the elephant until the next morning when we would go to attend to it. However on arrival at the ranch, we were informed that the elephant had been sighted on 1st when the information was relayed to Buchuma gate who it seemed sat on it until 3rd afternoon. The elephant had not been seen again since then. The ranch scouts were out looking for it. We joined them for the search but we did not find it. Mr. Michael Pritt Jones, the proprietor of the ranch also assisted us briefly with air support as he was flying out to Nyeri. The ranch management was advised to henceforth relay all wildlife vet emergencies directly to the unit to enable immediate responses. The elephant was again sighted on 17th Dec. and the response was prompt. It was successfully immobilised with 18mg of M99® mixed with 2000mg of Hyaluronidase and went down in about 10 minutes. There were two septic wounds on the lower part of the left fore leg measuring about two inches in diameter, possibly caused by a sharp object like an arrow or a spear. Every effort was made to clean all the pus and remove as much of the necrotic (dead) tissue as possible. The wounds were also infused with dilute solution of Lugol’s iodine and an intra-mammary penicillin based antibiotic ointment (Opticlox®). The dart wound was also treated with the same. A high dose of a long acting oxytetracycline based antibiotic (Alamycin LA®) was also given. Examination of the right hind leg revealed a fresh wound on the lateral aspect of the foot pad, possibly caused by rocks or rough ground as the animal was putting much of its weight on this leg. Two nails had also come off. The wounds were treated topically. The animal was revived with 60mg M5050® and was up in an about two minutes.

The vet checks the sleeping elephant  The wound before being cleaned and treated

The wound being cleaned  The wound after treatment

Whereas the wounds on the left leg may heal, the ones on the right may not or may take long as the foot pad is always in contact with the ground which will interfere with the healing process. The animal will continue bearing much of its weight on this leg and the injuries may therefore extend even further. The prognosis for recovery is therefore guarded. The ranch management was advised to monitor the progress and keep us updated. A follow up will also be done to assess if a second treatment will be necessary. Giraffe with Snare at Aruba/Tahri Camp Area The giraffe was sighted on 8th between Tahri Camp junction and Aruba. It had a tight cable snare on the neck. It was very excited and unapproachable to within darting distance. The terrain and vegetation cover also made darting very difficult. The nearest we could get was about 70 metres. The effective darting range for most darting systems is 30-35 metres, beyond which accuracy and appropriate dart placement may not be achieved. We thrice tried to dart but lost the darts. Foot darting was also attempted to no avail. After about two hours without success, we decided to let the animal rest and come back for it in the evening as it was getting too hot. It is not recommended to immobilise animals when it is very hot because of risks of hyperthermia and its associated complications. We were still not successful in the evening. The animal was never seen again to date. Wounded Elephant in Shimba Hills National Reserve This was reported on the 18th Dec. It was easily located at the Northern boundary of the reserve browsing near a watering point. It was alone bull and was walking with difficult. We opted to stalk and dart the animal on foot because the terrain and the thick vegetation cover could not have allowed vehicle darting. It was darted from about 30metres with 18mg M99 mixed with 2500mg Hyaluronidase and went down in about seven minutes. Examination revealed two narrow penetrating wounds on the shoulder and on the rump, both on the left side of the animal.

The elephant goes down after being darted  The wound on the rump before treatment

The openings could not allow the index finger to go in. It was thought that the wounds may have been caused by high velocity objects, possibly bullets due to their small sizes. Normally, wounds inflicted by spears or arrows have wide openings. Cruciate incisions were made on both wounds to create drainage. As much pus as possible was drained and the wounds were flushed with hydrogen peroxide and water before being infused with a dilute solution of Lugol’s iodine and a penicillin based antibiotic ointment (Opticlox®). A high dose of a long acting antibiotic (Alamycin®) was also administered. Any radical surgery to remove the bullets may not be beneficial and may be fatal from excessive haemorrhage. It is hoped that no bone has been shattered and that fibrosis will take place to cover the objects rendering them unrecognisable as foreign. Reversal of anaesthesia was achieved with 60mg M5050® and the animal stood up with the first attempt after about three minutes.

Standing up after the reversal drug has been administered

A researcher on the ground was advised to monitor the animal closely and inform us if a second treatment will be necessary. He was also requested to try and establish the circumstances leading to the injuries. The response to the cases reported was faster this month than it was in the first month of November. This is attributable to the availability of an assistant from the Research Department who was always on standby. Thus, no time was lost looking for any assistance. I wish to thank all those who made this work a success in particular the research and the Sheldrick’s de-snaring teams.