The Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit
Field Report - October 2005
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We had three snare cases in October all in Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary (Salt Lick lodge). One was of an elephant calf with a deeply embedded snare in the right hind fore leg. It was reported and treated on the 8th. The mother was very aggressive and charged several times. It completely refused to leave the calf after immobilisation and we had to immobilise it also.
Both animals were revived simultaneously after treating the calf.
We had plans to give a repeat treatment after about five days but the family got lost soon after the treatment. We have requested the sanctuary game scouts to report immediately they sight it. The other two cases were on the 12th, this time an adult female elephant (left hind leg)
and a zebra (neck).
The snares were loose and had not inflicted any injury. There was also an elephant calf seen at the lodge with a loose snare on the neck but we did not find it. The game scouts are on the lookout for it.
On October 16th, we rescued an elephant calf aged about three weeks from eminent death due to starvation. The calf was very emaciated, weak and dehydrated when we found it near the Voi gate in Tsavo East. A female that was guarding it would make repeated attempts to support it to stand but it was too weak to stand on its own.
This female did not seem to be lactating and we doubted if it was the mother. We thought it was a family member taking care of it after the mother died or abandoned it. After the rescue, the calf was kept overnight at the Voi elephant stockade and airlifted to Nairobi the following day.
Recent reports indicate that the body condition has improved and it has adapted well to the rehabilitation programme. Another rescue of a two months old calf was done on the 28th at Mkuki ranch in Taita-Taveta. Gemstone miners in the ranch rescued it from one of the mines and reported it to us. It is also doing well in Nairobi.
On the 19th, KWS rangers at Lake Jipe in Tsavo West reported an adult female elephant carrying an arrow on its left abdomen but we found the arrow had fallen off by the time we arrived. We nevertheless immobilised it and confirmed there was nothing remaining inside.
We received this report while looking for a limping elephant calf aged about four years at Ngulia also in Tsavo West. After searching for it for about three hours without success, we abandoned the search to attend to this case. We went back to Ngulia on the 24th but the family had not been seen again. The cause of the limping was not clear to the people who reported it but they said there was no visible external injury. We are on standby when it reappears.
The Veterinary and Capture Unit at KWS headquarters requested us to be on standby for any emergency that might have arisen during an elephant drive from Ngulia rhino sanctuary between the 24th and 27th.
There were 206 elephants within the sanctuary during the last count done in January 2005. This is far beyond the carrying capacity of the 65Kmē area sanctuary. The competition for browse and water with the rhinos estimated to be 60 is very high especially in the dry seasons. The elephants have also caused much habitat degradation necessitating them to be removed. The drive went on without any incident. We managed to drive out 17 in the allocated helicopter hours.
Water has been provided outside to prevent elephants driven out from breaking back into the sanctuary in search of water. This was a pilot exercise before more funds are sought for helicopter hire to drive the remaining elephants.