The Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit
Field Report - January 2006
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The Unit resumed back from the December holidays on the 4th of January 2006 and started the activities for January in earnest the following day. This first case was of an adult male elephant stuck in a drying water hole at Kamtonga village near Mwatate. The residents had observed it struggle to free itself for about six hours before they realised it could not manage and called the unit.
We managed to pass ropes round it that assisted us to pull it out using the vet truck. This was done without any chemical immobilisation. There was nothing wrong observed with the elephant; no external injuries and the body condition was good. It just stood up and walked away after the rescue. Another similar case was also reported at pipeline area in Tsavo East, but this time a young elephant calf. Its mother had tried to assist it without success. We pulled it out and rejoined it with the family which had kept vigil nearby.
On the 12th, there occurred an accident along Mombasa highway at Tsavo River involving a bus and two elephants. One of the elephants died on the spot while the other sustained injuries and was seen limping a few metres from the accident scene. There were no casualties in the bus.
We were requested to assist establish the extent of the injury in this second elephant as it was feared that it could have fractured the front right leg. We immobilised it, did a thorough physical examination, and established that the leg was not fractured. We gave the elephant the benefit of doubt that it had no internal injuries that could threaten its survival. We gave it antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs and revived it.
It stood up without any struggle bearing its full weight on the limping front right leg. We recommended close monitoring by the KWS rangers. Unfortunately, it succumbed several hours latter.
From the above accident, we proceeded to Salt Lick where we removed a rope snare from the left front leg in a female adult waterbuck.
We also removed a wire snare from the neck and right fore leg of yet another female waterbuck at the same place on the 30th.
The injuries caused by these snares in both animals were not serious. Systemic antibiotics were given to both animals.
Next we went to Amboseli on the 13th following the report of a nine months elephant calf whose mother may have died and was with the other family members, none of which was lactating. Its condition was deteriorating and there was need to rescue and take it to the orphanage in Nairobi. However, we searched for the family for two days using three teams and aerial support and did not find it. We called off the search on the 15th and went back to Tsavo. On the way however, we were called to go to Ziwani in Tsavo West after a one-year-old calf was seen wandering on its own at Nkiito area with no other elephants in sight.
We rescued it and asked for an aircraft that airlifted it to Nairobi.
It unfortunately did not make it; it succumbed to pneumonia on the second day after the rescue.
On the 20th, we removed a snare from a giraffe at Dika plains in Tsavo East. We believe this was the same giraffe sighted a week before at Kanderi area but we did not find it for several days. It was a big male with the snare tight round the neck.
When the immobilisation drugs started taking effect, the giraffe refused to be herded towards a suitable area for capture and stubbornly headed towards some water nearby.
It went down inside the water but we managed to act fast and saved it from drowning. The head was supported upright, and then we removed the snare and revived it while in the water.
Thereafter we tied it with ropes and pulled it outside using the vet truck while still supporting the head in an upright position.
We were thereafter called to go to Iltilal area in Tsavo West on the 25th to establish the cause of death of two adult lionesses. Our findings were that the two died from poisoning.
The scene had signs of struggle before death (due to pain), vomiting and diarrhoea. We searched the surrounding and found two cow carcasses 200 metres away laced with the poison. Four hundred metres further was a Maasai boma inside the park.
We believed the lions stock raided this boma and the owners resorted to poison them. The case was taken over by the KWS Investigation Department for follow up.
Lastly in January was the report of a male elephant with a snare on the neck at Sala area in Tsavo East, which we treated successfully on the 27th. The snare was tight but the resulting injury was not serious.
The Mobile Veterinary Unit operated by The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust working with The Kenyan Wildlife Service and funded by Vier Pfoten