The Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit
Field Report - July 2005
Return to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
We started the activities for July on 2nd when we moved four orphans from the Nairobi nursery to Ithumba in the northern part of Tsavo East. They were transported in two trucks each carrying two animals. They had been trained to feed inside the trucks for several days before the movement and required no drugs during loading. The movement was smooth with no incidents.
I then attended a workshop in Mole National Park in Ghana between 9th and 20th July. The park is located in the Tamale region of North-west Ghana about 800 Km from Accra. The participants comprised of wildlife veterinarians, epidemiologists and ecologists from East, Central and West Africa. The main objective of the workshop was to exchange knowledge on the monitoring and surveillance of important diseases in wildlife that impact on human, livestock and the economy. The most important of these diseases is rinderpest which continues to impact negatively on the livestock sector especially in the Eastern part of Africa where the disease still persists. Wildlife particularly buffaloes as well as warthogs, Kudus, Elands and Giraffes are used to indicate the status of the disease in an ecosystem. The participants also exchanged techniques on wildlife capture and sampling. The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) is a key stakeholder in the eradication program of rinderpest due to the high interaction of wildlife and livestock in many parks, reserves and wildlife dispersal areas particularly in the Tsavo and Meru ecosystems where wildlife have tested positive in recent years. The presence of KWS was therefore critical especially in discussions relating to the surveillance missions to be undertaken in the Kenya-Somalia ecosystem in 2005-06 to enable Kenya apply for the infection free status as per the internationally set regulations and guidelines (OIE pathway). The workshop was organised by the Pan-African Control of Epizootics (PACE) under the auspices of the African Union’s Inter-African Bureau for Animal Research (AU-IBAR). Incidentally during this period, no cases were reported even from Amboseli where there has been many cases of spearing of elephants in the recent past.
On return from Ghana, we successfully removed a loose snare on the neck of a female giraffe at Kanderi in Tsavo East on the 22nd.
Next we treated a young calf and its mother that was first sighted in June at Tarhi Camp in Tsavo East but the family disappeared and was not found. It reappeared again on the 23rd but the report was delayed and by the time we received it the family was already gone. We searched many places during which we saw many family groups. We found it on the second day late in the evening. The calf had swollen lower joints in the right fore leg which was interfering with movement. It was however able to bear weight on the leg and keep pace with the other family members. The swelling was firm and affecting the flexibility of the joint. This was responsible for the pronounced limping. We did not get any discharges to show presence of infection when we aspirated and incised different areas of the swelling. The only external injury seen was a puncture wound about 2 inches deep just below the swelling. It was fresh with no infection and there seemed to be no relationship with the joint injury which was thought to have resulted from a sprain or small fracture at the joint. Initially before immobilisation we thought the injury was as a result of a wire snare but this was not to be.
The cause of this wound was difficult to determine but it seemed to have been sustained after the joint injury. It was treated topically and a systemic antibiotic given. The mother was also darted after it refused to leave the immobilised calf and after it charged onto us several times while trying to scare away the family which was very aggressive. It went down about 5 metres away from the calf only to discover that it had a penetrating wound running vertically on the left chest which we had not seen before immobilisation. The cause seemed to be a tree stump probably when it tried to rescue the baby during the joint injury. It was cleaned, treated and two incisions made to create drainage for any puss that may form thereafter.
A systemic antibiotic was also administered to control the infection. The operation was done late in the evening and darkness caught up with us before we finished. Both animals were revived almost simultaneously and rejoined.
The other case reported to the unit was that of a young male buffalo with a snare on the leg at Ngutuni Lodge on 26th. According to the report, it looked very and kept on running without stopping. The lodge manager believes that it had broken loose that morning and was trying to locate its herd. It was seen running towards the direction of large herd of 300-400 buffaloes about 2 Km from the lodge. We did not find it and it was extremely difficult to see it amongst the herd because the herd was in a thicket and was also easily excitable. The search will continue.
We also received the report of a purportedly injured elephant at Galdessa Camp in Tsavo East. To our disappointment however, we found the said injury to be a small swelling on the right side of the lower abdomen. It was not discharging contrary to the report and we considered it not necessary to intervene.
The bull is always near the camp and is very popular with guests. It has been christened ‘Tusker’ because it has a single left tusk. It is very used to people and walks through the camp undisturbed by their presence. The camp manager informed us that she has seen the elephant with the swelling for the last three years she has been at the camp and at no time has it been infected or affected the wellbeing of the animal.
On the 29th we rescued a 12-14 year old female elephant that was stuck in mud at the Satao camp water hole. The camp staff found it in the morning and is believed that it got stuck the previous night. We found no injury after we pulled it out of the mud and was in excellent body condition.
It was given antibiotics to prevent development of pneumonia and other complications before it was supported to stand as it could not stand on its own probably to fatigue and numbness of the muscles. There were three hippos in a pond just next but they did not attack the rescue team though they occasionally tried to scare the team away.
And on the 30th, we were called to treat a bull elephant that was seen at Voi Safari Lodge limping from a swollen left hind leg.
On immobilisation, we also discovered another arrow injury on the left abdomen which was discharging pus. We suspect a poisoned arrow especially for the wound on the leg as it was not deep but the leg was very swollen all round the lower part. The one on the abdomen was also not deep and was running below the skin. Both injuries were treated and systemic antibiotics given.
In the course of our patrols this month, we encountered the bull with the long tusks treated at Kanderi in June. We believe it was the one from the long unmistakeable tusks. The injuries were observed to have healed completely.