The Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit

Field Report - July 2017

 Return to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Website

Introduction

The month of July continued to experience a dry spell with no rains, leading to a reduction in forage and water availability within the park, forcing wildlife to move out of the park in search the food. Human wildlife conflict saw an increase in the month under review. Cases attended to include the rescue of a cheetah with severed hind legs in Kimana Township in Amboseli, investigation of bushbuck deaths near Finch Hattons lodge suspected to have died of Anthrax, an Elephant autopsy inside Tsavo East, de-snaring of a giraffe at Maungu Ranch, immobilization and translocation of a problematic lioness near Voi town, rescue of an Elephant calf near Maktau gate and de-snaring of a buffalo near TaitaSarova lodge.

Other activities included an examination and treatment of a security dog with an eye infection atNgulia, and an examination of several wildlife trophies for prosecution of offenders and giving expert testimony in Mariakani court.

1. RESCUE OF A CHEETAH

Species:     Cheetah

Sex:             Male

Age:             Adult

Date:            3rd July 2017

Place:          Kimana Township, Amboseli

Introduction

The report was made by KWS rangers of a cheetah that was inside Kimana Township near Amboseli National Park with an injury on the leg. As the Amboseli Vet unit was on off duty, the Tsavo unit responded and travelled by Vehicle to the area.

Immobilization and rescue

The Cheetah was found inside a fence belonging to a farmer in the area. Drugs were prepared comprising of 80 mgs Ketamine and 1 mgs MeditomidineHlc and loaded onto a 1.5 cc Dan inject dart. The Cheetah was darted on the thigh muscles and was fully immobilized after 8 minutes. He was removed from the fence and close examination revealed a fresh cut on both hind limbs just below the hock joint severing one leg and heavily injuring the other.

Rescuing the cheetah from inside the fence  Severe injuries to both hind legs

He was translocated to Amboseli National Park where further examination revealed very poor prognosis. A decision to euthanize was arrived at and the Cheetah was put down by use of 20 cc euthanaze administered by rapid IV through the radial vein.

Examining the severed leg  Decision made the euthanize the poor creature

 

2. BUSHBUCK DEATHS IN FINCH HATTONS, TSAVO WEST

Animal: Bushbuck

Species: Bushbuck

Sex: Female and Male

Age: Adults

Location: Finch Hattons lodge, Tsavo west.

Date of intervention: 3rd July

Introduction and investigation

Deaths of two antelopes of the Bushbuck species were reported next to Finch Hattons lodge within Tsavo West National Park with discharge of blood from the orifices and rapid autolysis of the carcasses.

Both animals had died suddenly with blood oozing from the ears, nose and the anus. History of sudden death with rapid putrefaction is usually an indication of Anthrax infection.

Buskbuck death  Possible anthrax infection of two bushbuck

There were no other animals around apart from crocodiles from a nearby spring that had consumed one of the carcasses. Blood smear was taken for processing and the carcass destroyed by burning.

Gram positive rode- shaped bacteria were seen on Giemsa stained slide. There were no further deaths in the area upon subsequent follow ups.

 

3. ELEPHANT AUTOPSY EXAMINATION

 Species:     Elephant

Sex:             Female

Age:            Adult

Date:           5th July 2017

Place:          Rhino sanctuary, Tsavo east

Introduction

A report was made by KWS rangers of an elephant carcass within the Tsavo East National Park Rhino sanctuary. The Tsavo vet unit visited the area to ascertain the cause of death.

The carcass was lying on the left flank and at advanced state of decomposition with so that no meaningful autopsy could be undertaken to determine the cause of death. Being in a relatively secure area of the park fenced by an electric fence and the level of autolysis of the carcass the cause of death was tentatively put as natural.

The carcass was already decomposed  A perhaps natural cause of death was ascertained

 

4. DESNARING OF A GIRAFFE

 Species:    Giraffe

Sex:             Male

Age:            Adult

Date:           8th July 2017

Place:          Maungu ranch, Tsavo

Introduction

The Giraffe bull was spotted in Maungu ranch by wildlife works security teams after they followed animal prints dragging a small tree across the road. They located the Giraffe with a snare on the neck and dragging a small tree. The Tsavo Vet team rushed using a vehicle to attend to the case. The Giraffe was easily spotted having been caught in bushes and in distress. Immobilization drugs were quickly prepared.

Immobilization and treatment

12 mgs of etorphine mixed with 50 mgs of Xylazine in a dan inject dart was prepared and loaded into a dan inject dart gun, the Giraffe was darted but it seems the drug did not discharge well and after waiting for 20 minutes with no effect another dart with the same dosage was prepared and the Giraffe darted again.

Giraffe spotted in the thicket  Giraffe darted to remove snare

It took him 5 minutes to to effect and the Giraffe roped down on lateral recumbency after which anaesthesia was reversed by administration of AtipemazoleHcl and Naltrexone intravenously and the Giraffe held down by the neck. The tight wire snare around the neck was cut free and wounds treated. Colvasone and Amoxycillin LA were administered IM.

Giraffe darted again and snare removed  The snare from around the giraffe's neck

The Giraffe was released but couldn’t wake up on its own and was helped onto his feet by vet and wildlife works teams.

 

5. CAPTURE OF A PROBLEMATIC LIONESS

Animal: Lioness

Species: Pantheraleo

Sex: Female

Age: Adult-old

Location: Voi town

Date of intervention: 10th July 2017

History and Capture

Then lioness was reported to have gone out of the park and killed a sheep near the Park boundary adjacent to Voi wildlife lodge. The vet team was called in to immobilise the lioness and move it back to the park. A dart was prepared containing 300 mgs of Ketamine Hcl and 4 mgs MeditomidineHcl and the lioness darted. She ran into some bushes but was easily located already immobilized 10 minutes later.  She was loaded to a vehicle for transport to the research offices for examination before final movement to Tsavo east National Park. Close examination revealed 3 heavily broken canine teeth and one slightly broken. The body condition was also poor.

Capture of the lioness  Examination of her jaw

Old lions with broken canines usually cannot hunt wild prey and hence resort to livestock predation as a way of feeding thus creating anger in the community. With that in mind a decision was made to euthanize the lioness.

Broken canine tooth  Decision to euthanize the lioness was reached

 

6. EXAMINATION OF A PROBLEMATIC LEOPARD

Animal: Leopard

Species: Pantherapardus

Sex: Male

Age: Young

Location: Maungu, Tsavo east

Date of clinical intervention: 15th July 2017

History and Examination

The leopard was captured after it preyed on livestock near Maungu area just outside Tsavo East National Park. After numerous complaints from the community living in the area a trap was placed to capture the Leopard. The leopard was finally captured and brought to the vet unit for examination and advice.

A decision was made to release the young Leopard back to the Park though the estimated age was around 2 years and starting to hunt. He was released the same day near Lugards falls along Galana River deep inside Tsavo East National Park.

Capture and release of a problematic leopard

 

7. ELEPHANT AUTOPSY EXAMINATION

Species:     Elephant

Sex:             Female

Age:            Adult

Date:           13th July 2017

Place:          Aruba lodge, Tsavo east

Introduction and autopsy

A report was made by KWS rangers of an Elephant carcass near Aruba lodge within Tsavo East National Park. The Tsavo vet unit visited the area to ascertain the cause of death.

Carcass in mid state of decomposition

The carcass was lying on the right flank and at mid advanced state of decomposition with the family still standing nearby. There was slight scavenger activity on the carcass with the tusks still intact. The skin was removed from carcass to expose the whitish subcutis and examine any penetrating wounds but none were found. The carcass was rolled over to expose the left flank and autopsy undertaken with no signs of external injury observed. Tusks were retrieved and taken for safe custody.

Tusks still intact  Tusks removed from the carcass and taken into KWS custody

The cause of death was through natural cause of age coupled with the poor nutrition.

Autopsy of the elephant revealed likely natural cause of death

 

8. DESNARING A BUFFALO

Animal: Buffalo

Species: Syncafuscaffer

Sex: Male

Age: Bull

Location: Taita salt lick sanctuary

Date of intervention: 17th July

History

A report was received from the DSWT desnaring team of a Buffalo bull with a tight wire snare around the neck near salt lick wildlife sanctuary. The team rushed into the area to find the snared Buffalo under a bush struggling.

Buffalo found struggling under a bush

Immobilization and treatment

The buffalo was immobilized using 9 mgs of etorphine mixed with 60 mgs of xylazine propelled in a dan inject dart gun. It went down in 5 minutes. The strong wire snare around the neck was cut loose with little neck wounding. The Bufallo was administered with Dexamethasone Hcl and long acting antibiotic parenterally. Anaesthesia was reversed using Diprenorphine at three times the etorphine dose and 0.5cc of AtipemazoleHcl both IV through the jugular vein. The Buffalo woke up and moved away.  Prognosis is good.

Tight wire snare which was removed

 

9. RESCUE OF AN ELEPHANT CALF

Animal: African Elephant

Species: Loxodanta Africana

Sex: Female

Age: 1 year old

Location: Maktau, Tsavo West

Date: 21st July

History and treatment

A report was made by DSWT desnaring staff of one Elephant calf that was abandoned and had entered a community area near Maktau gate together with another sub-adult Elephant. There being no mother around and the risk of being killed a decision was made to rescue her and take to Nairobi. The calf was captured and loaded onto a landcruiser and taken to Maktau gate airstrip. Due to its age the calf was airlifted to Nairobi orphanage for care.

Elephant rescue in Maktau

 

10. ELEPHANT EXAMINATION

 Species:     Elephant

Sex:             Male

Age:            Adult

Date:           22nd July 2017

Place:          Ngutuni sanctuary, Tsavo east

Introduction

A report was made by KWS community rangers of an Elephant bull that had fallen and could not wake up near Ngutuni lodge.

Elephant found struggling on the ground  Preparation to tie ropes to the tusks to assist the elephant to stand

The Vet team rushed to the area to find the bull flat on its side and struggling to stand up in vain. The Elephant bulls’ body condition was poor and only possessed the left tusk. Ropes were hooked onto the tusk and the bull pulled him onto his feet and he walked away calmly. Tsavo is experiencing a dry spell that is having a toll on wildlife especially the non-migratory individuals who stay behind when the rest have moved to Taita ranches where forage is better.

Elephant on his feet  Bull elephant walking away

 

11. ELEPHANT CALF EXAMINATION

 Species:     Elephant

Sex:             Unknown

Age:            Calf

Date:           23rd July 2017

Place:          Park HQ, Tsavo east

Introduction

A report was made by KWS rangers of an Elephant calf that was lying down within the Tsavo east National Park near park HQ. The Tsavo vet unit visited the area to ascertain the cause its condition.

The calf was lying down on sternal recumbency with the mother and other members of the herd beside it. The calf estimated at about one-year old had poor body condition which is an indication of poor nutrition. Attempts to get near proved futile as the matriarch fought back hard. The next morning a visit was made to the site where the calf was and found already dead. Autopsy revealed poor nutrition as the cause. Deaths of young calves are common in Tsavo at times of diminished rains such as this year.

Calf lying at the feet of the herd  Matriarch fought to protect the calf

 

OTHER ACTIVITIES UNDERTAKEN

  1. The unit examined several wildlife trophies and produced an expert report to aid in prosecution of the offenders in court.
  2. A security dog was also treated for an eye infection in Ngulia Rhino sanctuary and did not respond to the treatment. A referral for specialised treatment was advised.
  3. The vet testified as an expert witness in Mariakani court in a case where a suspect was arrested being in possession of five Elephant tusks.