The Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit

Field Report - July 2014

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Introduction

The month of July like the previous months witnessed significant reduction in wildlife injury cases handled as compared to the same period last year. This has been attributed to heightened security patrols by the KWS rangers and good rains received earlier in the year. Though a number of the cases handled had to be euthanized due to untreatable injuries sustained especially fractures affecting the skeletal system. Disease surveillance was done in Shimba hills which formed part of a PHD study of one of the vet staff from Nairobi where several species that included Buffaloes, the rare sable antelope, warthogs, Hartebeest and Bush buck were sampled for further disease investigation. The security situation is expected to remain good in the region

Case #1 Shortening of an elephant tusk growing towards the facial bones:

Date: 4th July 2014

Species: Elephant

Sex: Female

Age: Adult

Location: Tsavo East

History: 

This is the second elephant with tusk abnormality that grows towards the facial bones instead of straight out rostrally. The caudal carving of the tusks towards the facial bones is believed to be a genetic problem in the elephant’s genes and has no treatment other than trimming to alleviate more injury to the face. 

Immobilization and tusk trimming:
The elephant was immobilized using 16 mgs of Etorphine delivered through a dan inject dart gun from a safety of a vehicle. She was separated from the other family members and after Anesthesia set in. She had to be rolled over as she fell with the malformed tusk on the lower side. A hacksaw was used to cut a third of the coiled tusk and the skin area wounded by the tusk cleaned, disinfected and green clay applied.She was finally revived and rejoined her family that was waiting nearby.

Shortening the tusk  Removing the tusk

Treating the wound  After treatment on the wound

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Reviving the elephant

Case #2 Rescue of an abandoned elephant calf:

Date: 7th July 2014

Species: Elephant

Location: Taita Wildlife Sanctuary

History: 

An elephant calf was spotted near Satao wandering alone and a team from the DSWT rushed in to find the lone elephant calf in open grassland.The calf was captured and driven to a nearby airstrip.

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After catching the elephant  Moving the elephant to the airstrip

Putting the elephant in the plane

Case #3 Shimba hills reserve wildlife disease sampling:

Date: 5th and 8th July 2014

Species: Various Species

Location: Shimba Hills

History: 

Shimba hills national reserve is among several reserves managed by KWS situated in coastal Kenya and contains many wildlife species among them Elephants, rare sable antelope, Buffaloes, waterbuck, Impalas and warthogs. Many factors have been associated with lack of increase in wildlife population numbers especially of the endangered Sable antelope. Some of the factors include diseases, predation and poaching among other factors. The study done as part of Phd study was aimed at understanding the disease status of the different wildlife populations in the reserve. 

Immobilization:

The animals were immobilized using the standard protocols for each species and blood, tissue and external parasites samples taken. Chemical immobilization was used to capture sable, buffalo, Hartebeest and Bush buck while Net capture method was used to capture warthogs. A total of 19 buffaloes, 5 sables, 4 warthogs, 1 bushbuck and 1 hartebeest were sampled and samples processed and stored in liquid nitrogen for further analysis. 

 Case #4 Rescue of an elephant calf with limb fracture in Satao:

Date: 15th July 2014

Species: Elephant

Sex: Female

Age: 18 Months

Location: Satao Tsavo East

History: 

Satao waterhole is visited by hundreds of elephants daily to drink the now scarcely available water in the region. This is a prime point to spot injured elephants from as far as Kulalu hills. On this day an injured elephant calf was seen limping near the water hole and could not move far.

The abandoned elephant calf

.The vet team together with the DSWT stockade staff rushed in to the area to find the sickly lame calf near the water hole.

Capture:                                      

He was subdued and anaesthetized using 4 mgs of Etorphine Intravenously 

Examination:

On examination, a penetrating wound was discovered on the facial bones plus a complete fracture of the right humeral bone due to unknown cause diagnosed.

Capturing the elephant calf

Sedating the elephant  The elephants injury

Cleaning the elephants wound

Treatment:

He treated with Dexamethasone and Amoxicillin long acting both intramuscularly and transported to Voi stockades for overnight stay before he was airlifted to Nairobi for specialized treatment.

Case #5 Clinical intervention of a young elephant bull with a fracture:

Date: 20th July 2014

Species: Elephant

Sex: Male

Age: 2-3 years

Location: Pikapika Area

History:

The elephant was reported by the security teams within Taita ranches as having fallen into a water dam near Pikapika.The team rushed to find the nearly submerged elephant struggling to breath by lifting its trunk above water. Ropes were used to pull him out of water for close up examination of the injured leg.

Elephant in the dam  Pulling the elephant out of the dam

the elephant unable to move

Examination and wound management:

The elephant was euthanized to end his suffering as he could have died with or without treatment. Autopsy confirmed complex fracture of the right humeral bone, muscle tissue damage and rapture of radial arteries. The tusks were retrieved and handed to KWS rangers

euthanized elephant  Autopsy confirmed complex fracture of the right humeral bone

Case #6 Desnaring of an elephant bull near Satao water hole:

Date: 21st July 2014

Species: Elephant

Sex: Male

Age: Sub- Adult

Location: Satao water hole, Tsavo East

History: 

The elephant bull was seen near Satao water hole with a long wire snare around his face and cutting behind the left ear lobe. Snares are usually laid by poachers to catch small game and buffaloes but end up snaring elephants in the process.

Darting and treatment:
The elephant was darted using 16 mgs of Etorphine from a dan inject dart system. The elephant was rolled over as it fell on the injured side. The tight wire snare around the face was cut loose and the wounds on the face and base of the ear cleaned with hydrogen peroxide, doused with tincture of iodine and covered with green clay. Long acting antibiotics and painkillers were administered parenterally. Full recovery is expected after a month.

Prognosis: Good

Removing the snare from the elephant  The snare that was on the elephant

Cleaning the snare wound

After treatment

Case #7 Treatment of a mange infected Grants Gazelle:

Date:21st July 2014

Species: Grants Gazelle

Location: Aruba Tsavo East

History: 

After the treatment of the snared the team stumbled on a restless and disturbed grant Gazelle near Aruba lodge. On closer examination mange like skin infection was noted and immobilization drugs were quickly prepared.

Mange found on the gazelle  Mange all of the gazelles body

Treatment:

A mixture of 1 mg etorphine hcl and 5 mgs xylazine hcl was used in the darting. Deep skin scrapings were taken and put in a universal bottle. Due to lack of processing chemicals, they were submitted to Nairobi wildlife laboratory for analysis.Mange is a skin infestation caused by parasitic mites. There are usually two common types of mange, Sarcoptic and Demodectic mange mites that affects a wide range of both domestic and wild animals including man.

Treatment on the gazelle

After treatment  Reviving the gazelle

Gazelle back on its feet

Case #8 Treatment of an injured elephant bull:

Date: 24th July 2014

Species: Elephant

Sex: Male

Age: Adult

Location: Dakota Tsavo East

History:

The huge elephant bull was located still bleeding from a fresh arrow injury in Dakota plains. The bull was in the company of a younger bull foraging in the plains with clear fresh blood marks on the left thigh. 

Immobilization and treatment:
The bull was immobilized using 18 mgs of Etorphine propelled from a dan inject dart system. He went down after 7 minutes. The point of bleeding was cleaned to expose a penetrating wound which was probed deep into the muscles without getting anything. Deeper probing revealed a deeply embedded poisoned arrow head that took about 15 minutes to remove.

The arrow wound  After removing the arrow from the elephant

Cleaning the wound

Treatment:

The wound was cleaned and antibiotics applied.The wound was finally covered with green clay. Plenty of water was poured on the ears to cool him.

Prognosis: Good

Keeping the elephant cool in the hot climate  The elephant slowly waking up

Conclusion and acknowledgement:
Cases of arrow injuries especially in elephant bulls have started to re-occur after several months without such cases. Each case of treatment in attempted poaching incidence is promptly reported to the security teams for follow up. The unit will continue responding to cases as they are reported in the region.
The unit would like to appreciate the support of its sponsors ViER PFOTEN through the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) for their continued support that enabled us save suffering wildlife at their time of need. We also thank Kenya Wildlife Service through the Assistant director Tsavo conservation area and the head, veterinary and capture services department for their support.

Reported by: Dr. Jeremiah Poghon