The Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit

Field Report - November 2016

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FIELD VETERINARY REPORT FOR TSAVO MOBILE VET UNIT FOR THE MONTH OF NOVEMBER 2016

Reported by Dr Jeremiah Poghon

Summary

The month of November continued to experience an increase in cases of elephant treatment and rescue mainly attributed to the prevailing drought conditions in the ecosystem. Many calves were rescued after being abandoned by their mothers because they were too weak to move along with the herd. Others got stuck in muddy water pools and had to be rescued. Two elephants were treated for arrow wounds thought to have been caused by human-wildlife conflicts in Taita sisal estate that borders a community area. Two elephants were assisted onto their feet after being found recumbent and several elephant carcasses examined for cause of death with many being linked to the prevailing drought conditions. Good rains were received in late November and this is expected to drastically reduce mortalities in elephants and other species. It’s also thought that the newly built railway made it difficult for many elephants that move to the Taita ranches during the dry spell to escape dwindling food availability in the park hence there have been more deaths than normally occurs at this time of the year. It will take time for the elephants to get used to the new passage ways across the railway.

CASE#1 RESCUE OF A YOUNG ELEPHANT

Date:           2nd November

Species:     elephant

Sex:            Female

Age:            5 years old

Place:          Aruba lodge, Tsavo east

Rescue

It was reported by Aruba lodge staff that a young female elephant aged about 5 years was stuck in muddy water pool next to the lodge. The Vet team rushed to the area to find the elephant halfway submerged and a family of elephants nearby.

The elephant is half submerged in the mud

The elephant was fastened to ropes that were tied onto a vehicle and pulled out of the mud. She was assisted onto her feet by a team from Tsavo vet and DSWT stockade staff. She stood up and joined a nearby family and calmly walked away.

Freed by the Team  The elephant reunited with family

CASE#2 TREATMENT AND RESCUE OF AN ELEPHANT HIT BY A LORRY

Date: 2nd November

Species: Elephant

Sex: Male

Age: 5-6 years old

Location: Tsavo River Bridge, Tsavo East

History

A report was made by KWS security teams of one sub-adult elephant that was standing on the road causing a traffic jam and unable move away along Nairobi-Mombasa highway near Voi River Bridge. The vet team together with the Voi stockade team rushed to the area to find the young elephant standing beside the road.

Treatment

Close examination revealed concussion marks and vehicle paint on the skin. He was darted using 6 mgs of Etorphine and went down in 5 minutes. Examination revealed 3 broken ribs among other soft tissue injuries. He was administered with long acting antibiotics and dexamethasone. Due to the severe injuries he was deemed too weak to survive in the wild and hence loaded onto a truck with assistance of railway construction workers and transported to the Voi stockade for treatment and care. Further treatments continued at Voi with the elephant collapsing several times and being assisted onto his feet. By the time of reporting, the elephant was progressing very well and will pull through despite the poor initial prognosis.

An elephant hit by a lorry  The elephant needs intensive care and is taken to Voi Stockades

CASE#3 TREATMENT OF AN SNARED YOUNG ELEPHANT

Date:        4th November 2016

Species:     Elephant

Sex:            Female

Age:           4 years old

Place:         Teita sisal estate wildlife sanctuary, Mwatate

Introduction

The elephant calf was reported to be injured with front limb lameness in Teita Sisal Wildlife Sanctuary. The Vet team rushed to the area to find the lone young elephant nearby. She was limping on the front limb with obvious lameness.

Immobilization, examination and Treatment

The elephant was immobilised with 4 mgs of Etorphine in a dan-inject dart from a vehicle. She was darted in the rump and went down on the left flank after 10 minutes. The snare had already come close and fallen off, but the obvious snare wound with limb deformity was evident. The resulting injury was cleaned using water mixed with Hydrogen Peroxide then doused with tincture of Iodine and covered with wetted green clay. Long acting antibiotics and Dexamethasone were administered parenterally.

Snare wound and leg deformity  Snare wound and leg deformity

Reversal

Anaesthesia reversal was achieved by administration of 12 mgs of Diprenorphine intravenously. She woke up and moved away slowly.

Prognosis

Prognosis is good though she will live with left front limb deformity.

CASE#4 TREATMENT OF A SICK ELEPHANT BULL

Date:          9th November

Species:     Elephant

Sex:            Male

Age:           Adult

Place:         Taita ranch, Tsavo.

History

This elephant bull was reported sick by Wildlife Works Rukinga Rangers who also patrol the expansive Taita Ranch. The Vet team rushed to the area to find the huge bull nearby standing still with a distended abdomen. He was reported to be off food since the previous day.

Immobilization, examination and treatment

The elephant was immobilised with 18 mgs of Etorphine in a dan inject dart from foot. She was darted in the rump and went down on the left flank after 5 minutes. Examination revealed no external wound but a distended and gas filled abdominal cavity. Rectal examination revealed absence of ingester. A preliminary diagnosis of intestinal obstruction and tympani was made. With no specialised equipment to remove the obstruction symptomatic treatment was instituted. Long acting antibiotics and Flunixine Meglumine were administered parenterally.

Treating a sick elephant  Treating a sick elephant

Reversal

Anaesthesia reversal was achieved by administration of 48 mgs of Diprenorphine through the ear veins. He woke up and moved away slowly.

Prognosis

The prognosis was guarded and the elephant bull succumbed that evening and autopsy undertaken the next day confirmed it as obstruction of the large colon possibly caused by dehydration and slowed intestinal motility.

CASE#5 RESCUE OF AN ELEPHANT CALF IN ARUBA

Date: 11th November 2016

Species: Elephant

Sex: Female

Age: 8 months old

Location: Aruba, Tsavo East

History

A report was made by Aruba lodge staff of one elephant calf that was lying down and unable to wake up near Aruba lodge water hole. The family had left her and headed to a water hole. The vet team rushed to the area to find the small elephant lying down in sternal recumbency near the lodge fence.

Rescue

Examination revealed it was too weak to survive alone so it was rescued and transported to the Voi stockade for treatment and care.  He was administered 50 % dextrose bolus IV and a further slow IV lactated ringer’s solution through the ear vein. Further administration of long acting Amoxicillin and Dexamethasone was done. He woke up and moved around the enclosure.

An elephant found lying recumbent  The elephant is taken to Voi Stockades

The elephant can stand after a life saving drip  Comforted by the other orphans

Due to its tender age the calf was airlifted to Nairobi orphanage for care. He was diagnosed with poor nutrition due to the prevailing drought conditions in Tsavo. Prognosis is guarded.

CASE#6 TREATMENT OF AN INJURED BUFFALO

Date:           11th November

Species:     Buffalo

Sex:             Female

Age:             Adult

Place:          Along Mzima Pipeline, Tsavo East

History, examination and management

A report was received from Voi tourists of a buffalo that was lying down in a shallow water hole along the Mzima water pipeline near park headquarters. The team rushed in to find the recumbent buffalo in the water and unable to wake up. Closer examination revealed that the cow was weak and had deep bite injuries on the perineal area possibly inflicted by hyenas. It appears the buffalo was attacked by hyenas while experiencing dystocia. She was pulled out of the water and later euthanized to relieve her of pain. Death was deemed natural.

A buffalo is stuck in the mud  The buffalo is exhausted

CASE#7 RESCUE OF AN ELEPHANT CALF IN ARUBA

Date: 12th November 2016

Species: Elephant

Sex: Male

Age: 6 months old

Location: Aruba, Tsavo East

History

Just a day after rescuing a sickly elephant calf near Aruba lodge another report was made by Aruba lodge staff of yet another elephant calf that was nearly submerged in mud inside Aruba lodge water hole. The mother was nearby distressed and trying to figure out how to rescue her calf. The vet team accompanied by the Voi Keepers rushed to rescue the calf. The calf was pulled out of the thick muddy water and mud washed out of the skin.   Examination revealed it was in good health. He was released and ran to his mother who was coming closer to rescue him. They both walked away calmly.

An elephant calf is stuck fast in a watering hole  The keepers move in to help

The keepers use straps to pull the calf free  The mother is close by and retrieves her baby

Prognosis

Prognosis is good.

CASE#8 EXAMINATION OF ELEPHANT CARCASSES IN DAKOTA

Date: 22nd November

Species: Elephant

Sex: Male and Female

Age: Adults

Location: Dakota, Tsavo East

History

A report was made by KWS security teams of two elephant carcasses spotted during an aerial recce near Dakota area on the southern tip of Tsavo East Park. The vet team rushed to the area to find two carcasses all aged at more than five days from the time of death.  Examination revealed extensive struggles from both the elephants before death in muddy shallow water pools that collected after the recent rains. External examination revealed no injuries. Full autopsy could not be done due to advanced state of autolysis.

 EXAMINATION OF ELEPHANT CARCASSES IN DAKOTA

The deaths were attributed to drought and short rains, once the elephants fell down they couldn’t get up due to weakness and slippery ground. All tusks were retrieved and kept by KWS security teams.

CASE#9 EXAMINATION OF A RECUMBENT ELEPHANT IN SATAO

Date: 23rd November2016

Species: African elephant

Sex: Male

Age: 5 years old

Location: Aruba, Tsavo East

History

A report was made by KWS security staff of a young elephant that was lying down and unable to wake up near Voi River downstream from Satao tented camp. The family had left him and he was all alone. The vet team rushed to the area to find the small elephant lying down in lateral recumbency. 

Examination and Management

Examination revealed it was too weak and emaciated with a body score of less than 2/5. He was administered with 50 % Dextrose bolus and Dexamethasone Hcl solution through the ear vein as well as long acting Amoxicillin and Dexamethasone. Several attempts were made to wake him up but all failed as he was too weak to support himself due to effects of drought.

 EXAMINATION OF ELEPHANT CARCASSES IN DAKOTA   EXAMINATION OF ELEPHANT CARCASSES IN DAKOTA

A decision was made to euthanize the young bull and reduce suffering due to very poor prognosis. Tusks were removed by KWS security teams.

CASE#10 TREATMENT OF A SNARED ZEBRA

Date:          24th November

Species:    Common Zebra

Sex:            Female

Age:           Adult

Location:         Manyani gate, Tsavo east.

History

This Zebra was reported by the KWS gate attendants as was lame and walking with a lot of pain. She was easily traced near Manyani gate with a herd of other zebras.

Immobilization, examination and treatment

The zebra was immobilized using 6 mgs of Etorphine Hcl and 60 mgs of Xylazine in a dan-inject dart from foot using a dan-inject dart gun. She was darted in the rump and went down on the right flank after running for about 5 minutes.

An injured zebra is treated  The team at work

Examination revealed a wire snare wound wrapped around the right hind limb damaging the right fetlock joint. The wound was cleaned using water mixed with Hydrogen peroxide and doused with iodine. Oxytetracycline spray was applied and long acting antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs administered parenterally.

The vet team assess the injury  The zebra moves off but has guarded prognosis

Reversal

Anaesthetic reversal was achieved by the administration of 18 mgs of Diprenorphine Hcl and 2.5 mgs of Atipemazole Hcl IV through the jugular vein.

Prognosis

Prognosis is guarded

CASE#11 EXAMINATION OF A RECUMBENT ELEPHANT NEAR BACHUMA

Date: 24th November 2016

Species: Loxodanta Africana

Sex: Female

Age: Young adult

Location: Bachuma, Tsavo East

History

A report was made by KWS security staff of a young elephant that was lying down and unable to wake up near Bachuma gate area south of the park. The vet team rushed to the area to find the elephant was already dead.  Examination revealed it was too weak and emaciated with a body score of less than 2/5. Emaciation was due to effects of drought.

EXAMINATION OF A RECUMBENT ELEPHANT NEAR BACHUMA

Tusks were removed by KWS security teams for safe custody.

CASE#12  EXAMINATION OF A RECUMBENT ELEPHANT NEAR VOI RIVER

Date: 25th November

Animal: Elephant

Sex: Female

Age: Young adult

Location: Voi River, Tsavo East

History and examination

A report was made by KWS security staff of a mid-size elephant carcass that was lying dead along Voi River area. The Vet Team arrived at the area to find the elephant was already dead. No external injury marks were seen and there were signs of struggling in the vicinity. Evidence suggested the elephant fell into a muddy clay slippery soil from recent rains and couldn’t get back up. Examination revealed the emaciation was due to the effects of recent drought.

Tusks were removed by KWS security teams for safe custody.

CASE#13 EXAMINATION OF A RECUMBENT ELEPHANT COW IN DIDA HAREA

Date: 26th November

Animal: Elephant

Sex: Female

Age: Adult

Location: Dida harea, Tsavo East

History

A report was made by KWS security staff of an elephant cow that was lying down and unable to stand, but still alive, between Voi river and Dida harea area. No family was seen around. The vet team found the cow lying down in lateral recumbency and struggling to get up.

A female elephant cant get to her feet  The vet help her to her feet

 

Management

Ropes were hooked onto her tusks and fastened onto the vet landcruiser. After several attempts she eventually stood up and walked away calmly. The weakness was linked the effects of drought.

The elephant is weak from the drought but moves off

CASE#14 EXAMINATION OF A RECUMBENT ELEPHANT COW AND RESCUE OF A CALF

Date: 28th November

Species: Loxodanta Africana

Sex: Female

Age: Adult and its calf

Location: Mukwaju, Tsavo East

History

A report was made by KWS security staff of an elephant cow that was lying down and unable to stand between Mukwaju area past Satao. She was still alive and had a tiny calf standing beside her. Her family were also seen nearby.

The calf stands vigil over her mother  The calf stands vigil over her mother

The decision was made to rescue the calf as the mother could not supply her with enough milk in her current state. The calf was captured and put in a vehicle. Ropes were hooked onto the mother’s tusks and fastened onto the vet landcruiser. She was pulled into a sitting position and she stood up searched for her calf and walked away calmly to the bigger herd. The calf was airlifted to DSWT Nairobi orphanage for care. The weakness was linked to effects of drought.

Ropes are used to help her to her feet  The team helps the weak mother to stand

Ropes are used to help her to her feet  The mother elephant moves to find her herd

CASE#15 EXAMINATION ELEPHANT CARCASS NEAR SATAO

Date: 28th November

Species: Elephant

Sex: Male

Age: Adult

Location: Satao, Tsavo East

History

A report was made by KWS security staff of a huge elephant bull carcass that was lying dead along Voi River area near Ndololo camp. The vet team rushed to the area to find the mid-size bull lying down on lateral recumbency and already dead.  No external injuries were seen and there were signs of struggling in the vicinity. Opening of the carcass was not done due to advanced stage of decomposition.

EXAMINATION ELEPHANT CARCASS NEAR SATAO

Tusks were removed by KWS security teams for safe custody. It appears like the elephant fell on slippery soil from recent rains and couldn’t get back up.

Other cases handled by the unit

  • The unit was involved in examination of elephant trophies confiscated from offenders and produced professional reports to be used in court to aid prosecution of offenders.
  • A KWS security dog attached to Ithumba station was treated for bloody diarrhoea and anorexia and recovered well.

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 immense support to the unit.