The Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit

Field Report - May 2005

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Activities for May started on the 7th, soon after resumption from an off-duty, with a case of a bull elephant in Kuku group ranch. The ranch neighbours Kimana sanctuary and Imbirikani group ranch about 40Km from Amboseli national park. The bull had a massive injury on the left fore leg whose cause was difficult to determine. It was deep almost to the bone, infected and infested with maggots. Treatment was considered to be of little assistance as chances of recovery were slim. It was put down to stop further suffering and the tusks recovered.

The elephant goes down after being darted  The wound before anything is done to it

Dr. Ndeereh takes a look at the wound  The wound is extremely infected and infested with maggots

Dr. Ndeereh tries to clean the wound

The same time we received the above report, we also received that of a buffalo with a snare at Ziwani in Tsavo West. To enable us to attend to both cases, I was airlifted to Ziwani while the vet truck followed and connected with it at the Kimana sanctuary. We could however not find the buffalo, even by air, in the general area where it was last seen. Because the pilot had other engagements in Tsavo East, he airlifted and left me at Kimana airfield where a vehicle from Amboseli was waiting. Meanwhile, KWS rangers were requested to locate the buffalo and relay the report to Amboseli if they found it. We passed through Ziwani the following day on our way back to Voi and found the rangers searching for it. We joined them for about 2 hours and when there were no signs of it we left for Voi via Maktau. Next we were called to assist in the capture of a buffalo on the 14th that had broken the fence and entered into the Tsavo East park headquarters and residential area. There were fears that it could injure members of staff. On immobilisation, we also found that it had an injury on the upper part of the neck possibly from a snare. This was treated and systemic antibiotics given. Enough personnel were called to help carry the buffalo to the other side of the fence about 50m from where it went down.

The Buffalo is darted  The wound on the upper part of the Buffalo's neck before treatment

Dr. Ndeereh cleans the wound  The upper neck wound after it has been cleaned

Dr. Ndeereh administers the reversal drug  The Buffalo starts to get to its feet

Kilanguni lodge in Tsavo West called on the 19th to rescue a buffalo calf aged about 2 weeks abandoned at a water hole near the hotel. It was rescued and transported to the Voi elephant stockade. It was given re-hydration fluids and cow’s milk as well as systemic antibiotics on rescue. It was taken by Taita Development Company (TDC) which was willing to raise and rehabilitate it.

The buffalo calf after it was rescued  The buffalo calf

On the 20th, we immobilised an elephant cow near Voi gate in Tsavo East which we thought had an arrow head lodged on the upper part of the left abdomen. It also looked weak and was walking very slowly which we thought resulted from the injury. The first dart got deflected by strong winds and landed on the base of the tail. Observation with a pair of binoculars revealed that it did not discharge the immobilisation drug prompting us to give a second dart. The elephant was so weak such that it did not react to the impacts of both darts. We however did not find any injury. It was just a small swelling which looked like it had an arrow on it. The cause of the weakness could not be determined and could probably have been internal. The animal was given a systemic antibiotic and revived. And on the 22nd, we treated a bull elephant at Ngutuni in Tsavo East that had an arrow injury on the left hind leg that was making it limp heavily and drag the leg which was swollen.

The elephant goes down after being darted  The wound seeping pus

Dr. Ndeereh cleans the wound  The elephant gets to its feet after the first treatment is received

A second treatment was done five days later on the 27th. There was some slight improvement as the purulent discharges had reduced and it was not dragging the leg much compared with the day it was first treated.

The elephant is darted  The wound is cleaned a second time

Post cleaning the wound is sprayed with an antibiotic  The elephant back on its feet

During the second treatment, the animal went down on the side of the injured leg and we had to turn it to be able to clean and treat the wound. It will be monitored for progress and another treatment considered at a later date if it will not be satisfactory. On the 26th, Amboseli reported a rare condition of a bull elephant with abnormally overgrown left fore toenails which were interfering with movement. It was immobilised and the nails trimmed. However, this is thought to be a temporary remedy as they might re-grow. The sole tissue was also observed to be grown which prevented trimming the nails close to the base because of haemorrhage.

The elephants abnormally grown toenails  Dr. Ndeereh trims the elephants toenails

The elephant's toenails after trimming

Two similar cases were reported several years ago one each from Amboseli and Tsavo East where the nails kept re-growing abnormally long every time they were trimmed. With time, they cracked allowing infection to set in and the animals had finally to be put down. This particular case will be monitored closely to establish what will happen. And on the 28th a report of a bull elephant with a wound at the underside of the neck with purulent discharge was reported from Sala area in Tsavo East. It was also said to have a wound on the left shoulder which we observed to be dry and not discharging. We however could not examine and establish its condition on immobilisation as the animal went down on this side and attempts to turn it over were unsuccessful. The animal was estimated to weigh about six tonnes and the vet truck could not manage. The injury on the underside of the neck was from a bullet, it was narrow and deep. It was cleaned and treated topically as well as a systemic long acting broad spectrum antibiotic given.

The elephant after immobilisation  The vet's forceps are inserted into the wound

The wound after it has been cleaned and sprayed with an antibiotic  The bull elephant gets back to its feet after the reversal drug is administered

In the same group of about 12 bulls, there was a younger bull of about 17 years whose trunk was severed at the tip by a snare. The wound was dry and the animal was able to use the trunk to browse. Immobilisation was considered unnecessary.

The young bull elephant without the tip of its tunk  The tip of the young bull elephant's trunk has been cut off

The last case for the month was the following day in the same Sala area. It was also a bull elephant whose trunk was also cut off at the tip and had a big wound on the medial side of the left fore leg.

The elephant's severed trunk

The elephant remained in an inlet in Galana River browsing for the better part of the day and came out in the evening. We could not tell the actual cause of the injury but we suspected that it was sustained while trying to free itself from the snare that severed the trunk. The wound involved only the skin and was already healing nicely. We do not expect any complications with it.

The elephants wound on its right fore leg can be clearly seen as it crosses the river  Dr. Ndeereh cleans the wound

The wound is covered with a disinfectant  The wound after it has been cleaned and treated