The Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit

Field Report - September 2016

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By Jeremiah Poghorn

The month of September experienced lesser number of Veterinary cases compared to the month of August. However many of the cases were serious and the animals had to be put down to alleviate their suffering. Cases handled included a speared Elephants in Rombo group ranch and another in Amboseli National park. An injured lion was also attended to near Voi safari lodge for serious fight injuries caused by Buffalo attack. The region continues to experience a dry spell leading to deaths in old Elephants and newly weaned calves due to food and water scarcity.


Date: 14th September

Species: Elephant

Sex:  Male

Age:  Sub-Adult

Location: Rombo ranch


This elephant bull was reported to be lame by Ol Donyo Wuas Rangers patrolling Rombo Group Ranch. The Elephant was previously treated by the Amboseli Vet Unit but did not recover. The Vet team travelled by road to an area near the Tanzanian border and found the lame elephant nearby.

Immobilization, examination and management

The young elephant was immobilised using 8 mgs Etorphine in a dan-inject dart from foot using a dan-inject gun. He was darted at the rump and went down on the right flank after 5 minutes.

There was a penetrating wound to the right front foot at the ankle joint with massive swelling and infection. Dead tissues and pus were cleaned. Probing the wound revealed it went deep into the joint which was infected and filled with pus; the left foot was also affected. A poor prognosis due to joint infection was made. The Elephant was euthanized and the tusks removed and handed over to Rombo KWS station. Autopsy confirmed the diagnosis. The cause of the injury was spear.

This elephant had a spear to the leg  Sadly the injury was too severe


Date: 16th September

Species: Elephant

Sex:  Female

Age:  Adult and calf

Location: Satao, Tsavo East National Park

History and Rescue

This Elephant was reported recumbent by Tsavo Trust Team with the family staying beside her including her small one year old calf. The vet team rushed to the area to find the elephant cow flat on the ground with two adult elephants and two calves standing beside her. The family were pushed to a distance and the fallen cow assisted several times onto her feet in vain.

The vet team moves in once the elephant is immobilised   The family surround the fallen elephant

She was in very poor body condition due to the dry conditions in Tsavo and old age. A final decision was made to Euthanize her and rescue her one year old calf. The calf was taken to Voi stockade and airlifted to Nairobi DSWT orphanage the next day.

The elderly female has a young calf that has to be rescued


Date: 17th September

Species: Elephant

Sex:  Male

Age:  Calf

Location: Amboseli National Park


This elephant calf was reported by the Amboseli trust for Elephants having a spear wound with blood oozing from it at the rump. The Vet was airlifted to Amboseli by the DSWT aeroplane to find the ground team waiting at the airstrip. After a brief search we found the elephant in a swampy area with his family. After several attempts to push them out, the family came out of the swamp with the injured calf.

Immobilization, examination and treatment.

The young elephant was immobilised using 5 mgs Etorphine in a dan-inject dart from a vehicle using a dan-inject gun. He was darted at the rump and went down on the right flank after 7 minutes. A vehicle was used to approach and dart the calf. Three vehicles were used to separate the calf with the mother.  

There was a penetrating deep wound to the left rump that was about 20 cms deep. It was cleaned using water mixed with Hydrogen Peroxide and afterwards tincture of iodine applied. The wound was then packed with green clay. Cause of the injury was a spear.

The elephant with a spear wound  The clay is packed into the wound

An intravenous administration of 20 cc Dexamethasone Hcl was given through the ear vein and 40 cc of long acting Amoxicillin injected intramuscularly.


Anaesthesia reversal was done by administration of Diprenorphine Hcl at three times the Etorphine dose. The calf woke up and was pushed to rejoin her family.


Prognosis is good.


Date: 18th September

Species: Elephant

Sex:  Male

Age:  Juvenile – 4 years

Location: Mzima pipeline, Tsavo East


A report was made by tourists of a young Elephant that had fallen onto a shallow watering point along the Mzima springs - Mombasa water pipeline that passes through the park.

Rescue and Treatment

The vet team together with the Voi Stockade Team rushed to the area to find the young elephant out of the water but lying down nearby. After examination it was discovered he was too weak to survive alone and was transported to Voi stockade for treatment and care. At the Voi stockade he was given 50 % dextrose bolus IV and a further slow IV lactated ringer’s solution through the ear vein. He was able to stand up after 5 hours. Further administration of long acting Amoxicillin and Dexamethasone was done.

This calf was found exhausted after being stuck in a mud hole  The calf was rescued and taken to the Voi Stockades

Further treatment and feeding with Lucerne and other concentrates will be done until full recovery. Prognosis was guarded but so far doing well.

He is slowly regaining strength


Date: 23rd September

Species: Lion

Sex:  Male

Age:  Sub Adult

Location: Voi safari lodge, Tsavo east


The lion was reported to be sick by tourists visiting the park. The vet team rushed to find the young lion along park headquarters - Voi safari lodge road.

Immobilisation, examination and management

The lion was darted with 300 mgs of Ketamine and 4 mgs of Meditomidine. It took about 5 minutes for the lion to be fully immobilized. He was moved to shade and a penetrating wound to the abdominal area right through the abdomen and exiting at the back was seen. Massive internal bleeding was also observed due to rapture blood vessels and intestine.

This lion was reported with an injury caused by a buffalo  Sadly the injury was too severe

He was euthanized due to poor prognosis. Cause of death was Buffalo attack.


Date: 23rd September

Species: Grants Gazelle

Sex:  Female

Age:  Adult

Location: Voi wildlife lodge water hole, Tsavo East


A report was made by tourists of a Gazelle stuck in mud at the lodges’ water hole and struggling to get fee in vain. The vet team rushed in and freed the traumatised antelope.

A grants gazelle stuck in a drying mud hole  The gazelle is rescued by the vet unit


Date: 27th September

Species: Elephant

Sex:  Unknown

Age:  Calf

Location: Ngutuni, Tsavo East


A report was made by KWS rangers of an elephant calf carcass that was seen in Ngutuni, Tsavo east National Park. The request was for autopsy to be undertaken to know the cause of death.


The carcass was male lying on the right flank with the perineal area and part of the trunk eaten away. There seemed to be sand disturbance made by the mother next to the carcass. Close examination revealed lion attack wounds on the less than one month old calf. The mother was most probably single and couldn’t ward off lion attacks.

An autopsy of an elephant calf is carried out

Cause of death – Lion attack

Other cases attended to by Tsavo vet unit

The unit also undertook an autopsy of a security dog that died after a short illness in Ngulia Rhino sanctuary. There were diffuse haemorrhages in the pericardium, lungs and the spleen was enlarged. Post mortem diagnosis was Trypanasomosis infection.


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 immense support to the unit.