The Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit

Field Report - November 2014

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FIELD VETERINARY REPORT FOR TSAVO MOBILE VET UNIT FOR THE MONTH OF NOVEMBER 2014

Reported By Jeremiah Poghon

Introduction

The month of November witnessed a reduction in the number of animals treated especially elephants who are the main species of wildlife treated in the Tsavo conservation area. This was attributed to the start of short rains. The showers come as a big relief to the thousands of elephants and other species roaming the vast ecosystem. Cases handled included an elephant cow that sustained a gunshot injury to the leg, two lionesses trapped and relocated to the park from Mgeno ranch after preying on livestock, an elephant calf rescued from a water hole in the Park and collaring of a lion within Kuku group ranch.

CASE#1 TREATMENT OF AN ELEPHANT COW

Date: 7th November 2014

Species: Elephant

Sex: Female

Age: Adult

Location: Sarova salt lick conservancy

History

This elephant cow was reported to be injured by Taita conservancy and the DSWT de-snaring teams based in Kishushe area. The cow was lame and sometimes could not stand up due to pain to the left rear leg. She kept on lying down while her 3 year old calf kept watch beside her. She was lucky as a dam was nearby and the vegetation was lush green from the short rains experienced recently.

Immobilization, examination and treatment

A 1.5ml Dan-Inject dart containing 16mg Etorphine Hcl was prepared and the elephant was darted from foot using a Dan inject dart rifle. The elephant was immobilized after 10 minutes and had to be roped and rolled over as she fell on the injured limb.

The injured elephant is spotted  The elephant is darted

The hind limbs were examined and the left hind limb was found to have a penetrating wound on the medial aspect. The wound was probed and found to be deep, down to the bone with suspected incomplete fracture. The suspected gunshot wound was cleaned using water mixed with Hydrogen peroxide then doused with tincture of iodine and amoxicillin ointment applied. Parenteral administration of long acting Amoxicillin and Dexamethasone Hcl was also given. The wound was finally covered in green clay.

The vet treating the wound  After treatment the elephant is revived

Reversal

To revive the elephant 48mgs Diprenorphine Hcl was administered intravenously through the ear vein and the elephant was on its feet within 3 minutes.

CASE#2 RESCUE OF AN ELEPHANT CALF

Date: 9th November 2014

Species: Elephant

Sex: Female

Age: Infant

Location: Tsavo east National Park, Mzima water pipeline

History

With the rains still not enough to fill the temporary water holes in the park, elephants continue searching for water everywhere including from leaks along the Mzima-Mombasa water pipeline. The steep walls made by digging elephants along the pipeline are too steep for some young elephant infants to climb out. This causes distress to the mother and several calves have been preyed on by hyenas after getting stuck in the muddy water.

Water from the pipeline can be fatal for baby elephants

Rescue operation

The mothers are always very protective of their young calves and usually fight back any attempts for the rescue. Two vehicles were used to scare away the mother whilst the tiny calf was be rescued and reunited with her mother. The mother fought the rescue team and charged the vehicles but the operation was finally successful.

The rescued calves family

CASE#3 CAPTURE AND TRANSLOCATION OF PROBLEMATIC LIONESS

Date: 11th November 2014

Species: Lion

Sex: Female

Age: Adult

Location: Mgeno ranch

History

Tsavo ecosystem comprises of three parks, Tsavo East, West and Chyulu with about 27 community ranches teaming with wildlife including lions. In one of the ranches, Mgeno ranch, livestock ranching is practiced alongside a big wildlife population and livestock predation caused by lions has caused uproar. The community rangers mounted traps in the area to trap the problematic lions.

Capture and Translocation

The lion trap cage was placed in a bushy area with a live goat as bait and covered with some twigs. The next morning they found a lioness trapped in the cage and covered her with canvas to calm her down then loaded into a vehicle for translocation to Tsavo East National Park. The lioness was brought to the Tsavo vet clinic based in Tsavo East for examination where she was certified as in good health and sprayed with topical antibiotics before she was released near Galana River deep inside Tsavo East National Park.

The lioness in the trap

Conclusion

The rapid decrease in lion populations across Kenya has necessitated the species being given priority in conservation hence translocation of problematic individuals.

CASE#4 LION COLLARING EXERCISE

Date: 20th November 2014

Species: Lion

Sex: Male

Age: Adult

Location: Kuku ranch

History

Kuku ranch is a community conservation area bordering Tsavo West National Park and Chyulu national park. Human predator conflict is high in the mainly pastoralist community that keep livestock as their economic activity. Understanding the dynamics of predator activity especially lions is crucial in solving the rampant human-wildlife conflict in this area hence the need to deploy satellite linked collars that will avail crucial information on lion movements and problem prides. This was the last of the 4 lions collared in Kuku ranch.

The lion is darted for collaring  A collar is fitted

Immobilization and collaring

The lion was immobilized using 300 mgs of ketamine and 4 mgs of meditomidine Hcl late in the afternoon after being spotted in the wildlife sanctuary. The first dart was deflected by a shrub and the second dart was well placed. The female in proximity was separated from the male 8 minutes after darting of which the drugs had taken effect.  The collars were fitted with enough space to allow the lion to feed and move with ease. The lion was revived one anda half hours later and monitored until he moved away on his own. Further follow up reports indicate he is doing well and was seen mating later the next day.

Measurements are taken  The lion is revived

CASE#5 CAPTURE AND TRANSLOCATION OF PROBLEMATIC LIONESS

Date: 22th November 2014

Species: Lion

Sex: Female

Age: Adult

Location: Mgeno ranch

History

This is the second problematic lion to be captured in Mgeno ranch after the first was captured on the 11th of November. This is after livestock predation by lions has created conflict within the community ranch. The community rangers mounted traps in the area to trap the problematic lions

Capture and Translocation

The lion trap cage was placed in a bushy area with a live goat as bait and covered with twigs. The next morning a lioness was trapped in the cage. She was covered with a canvas to calm her down and then translocated to Tsavo East National Park. The lioness was brought to the Tsavo vet clinic based in Tsavo East for examination where she was certified as in good health and sprayed with topical antibiotics before she was released near Galana River deep inside Tsavo East National Park.

The lioness in the trap  The lioness is released

CASE#6 POISONING OF WILDLIFE IN LUMO WILDLIFE CONSERVANCY

Date: 27th November 2014

Species: Lioness, lion cub, hyena, 2 vultures and a kite

Sex: Mixed

Age: Varying

Location: Lumo wildlife conservancy

History

Lumo wildlife conservancy is a community conservation programme made up of several ranches. The conservancy borders Tsavo West National Nark and Taita Salt Lick Wildlife Sanctuary and boasts of many wildlife species on top of livestock ranching. Rangers patrolling the conservancy found a dead lioness, a cub and nearby two vulture carcasses, a bird of prey carcass and a dead hyena. There was also a skeletal part of a bovine carcass close to the dead lioness. 

A piece of poisoned cattle meat  A poisoned lioness carcass

Investigation and sample collection

The lion carcasses were mutilated by scavengers and many internal organs were missing, nearby was a collection of vomit suspected to be from the lion. The bovine skeleton is suspected to have been poisoned. Due to the heavy decomposition of the lion carcass only samples of liver found near the carcass, vomit, two vultures and the bird of prey were collected, frozen and submitted to the Government chemist for toxicological analysis.

A poisoned vulture

CASE#7 POSTMORTEM OF AN ELEPHANT

Date: 30th November 2014

Species: Elephant

Sex: Male

Age: Adult

Location: Amboseli National Park

History

An elephant was reported sick in Amboseli National Park and because the Amboseli Vet Unit was off duty, the Tsavo vet was airlifted by a DSWT aeroplane to Amboseli to treat the now recumbent elephant bull. On the way the team received a report that the elephant had succumbed so the team proceeded to perform an autopsy.

General Examination

The carcass condition was in good condition with no external injury or fracture observed. Faecal contents from the rectum were normal and no vomit or food was seen in the mouth cavity. The carcass was opened from the flank and the peritoneal cavity and the major organs which included heart, lungs, liver, kidney, intestines, bladder and musculature examined and found to be normal. No haemorrhages were observed which happens in cases of poisoning.

The only observation was the empty stomach with only mucous lining its walls. The empty stomach in a species that is known to feed throughout the day is extremely abnormal and probable causes could be oesophageal obstruction among others. The tusks were removed and handed to the warden in charge of the park.

CASE#8 RESCUE OF A ZEBRA FOAL

Date: 30th November 2014

Species: Zebra

Sex: Female

Age: Infant, 1 month old

Location: Amboseli National Park

History

Shortly after the elephant autopsy the team stumbled on a one month old female zebra foal wandering alone near the Amboseli airstrip where she had been seen earlier in the day also alone. It was decided she needed to be rescued and taken to safety but the option of moving her by plane were ruled out due to the risks involved.

Rescue Operation

The zebra foal was captured manually by hand, tied and loaded onto a vehicle for transport. On the way she untied herself stood up but was calm throughout the 3 hour journey to Voi where she was offloaded and kept in a stable covered with hay on the floor. She will be kept company by another slightly older zebra in the stockade.

Conclusion and acknowledgement

The unit would like to appreciate the support of its sponsors ViER PFOTEN through the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) for their continued support.  We also thank Kenya Wildlife Service through the Assistant director Tsavo conservation area and the head, veterinary and capture services department for their support.