The Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit
Field Report - February 2006
Return to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
Activities for February started on the 2nd with a report of an injured bull elephant at Maji Chumvi in Tsavo East. The lower left fore leg was very swollen and the animal was walking with a lot of difficulty. Darting was done on foot because the area had thick bushes and difficult terrain to approach by vehicle. On immobilisation and upon examination, we concluded that a bullet must have caused the injury, as it was very narrow and penetrated deep. Though the injury looked long standing from the extent of the swelling, it was not infected and only flank blood came out when probed.
We thought we should give it treatment and monitor it closely for a few days to establish the response before a final decision could be made. The response to treatment after three days was assessed not to be good and the decision to put it down was made.
Rukinga ranch in Voi then reported a 15 year old elephant that was seen limping on its right fore leg. There was no injury seen from far and we immobilised it to find out what the problem was.
This was done but still we could not tell what the problem was though the leg looked swollen at the elbow joint. There was no external mark(s) of injury or trauma. We tried to manipulate the leg to feel whether it was fractured but it was not. There was little assistance that could be given to the animal; we revived it after administering some antibiotics and Dexamethasone (Dexa-kelŪ). The animal is able to ambulate to feed and water.
Taita Hills Sanctuary (Salt Lick) had several snare cases this month. The first was a five year old elephant calf with a loose snare on the left fore leg. This was successfully removed on the 7th.
The other was a 15-year-old elephant with the snare on the trunk reported and treated on the 14th. The snare in the second elephant was slightly tight and had caused some slight injury.
Two other cases, both buffaloes, were not found. Game scouts assigned to keep track of one lost it before we arrived. We looked for it in all possible areas where it could have gone but never found it. The second was in a breeding herd of over 300 whose flight distance was too large. We could not approach to within good distance to be able to see it as the herd would take off while we were over 100m away. The snare was said to be around the horns and too loose such that in the opinion of those who saw it, bushes could easily pull it out.
After the case at Salt Lick on the 14th, we proceeded to Ziwani in Tsavo West where an elephant calf had been seen alone near the Voyager hotel. The reports indicated that it was small and a possible candidate for rescue. We however found the calf to be over 4 years old and too big for the orphanage. It was in good body condition, active, feeding and we did not see any problem with it.
Before the two cases on the 14th, we had the previous day removed a snare from a bull elephant at Satao camp in Tsavo East. The snare was long and trailing but it had not inflicted any injury.
Lastly this month was a six-year-old elephant calf in Amboseli carrying a spear on its left Para lumbar fossa on the 24th. The spear fell off as we approached to dart it after waiting for nearly two hours for the family to come out of the swamp. We nevertheless immobilised it for examination and treatment. The spear had gone in through the skin and fortunately, it had not penetrated the abdominal cavity. The injury was very fresh, and the family was seen the previous evening. The spearing is thought to have happened a few hours before. The prognosis for recovery is good.
There was a report of another injured bull elephant at Sopa Lodge outside the park brought in by community game scouts when we were treating the above calf. The rangers managed to track it down by foot and confirmed to us that the injury was minor, and required no treatment.
While coming back from Amboseli, we carried with us a one-month-old zebra foal whose mother was snatched away by lions at Serena lodge. The hotel had kept it for three weeks since this happened. They did not have the right milk formula for it or knowledgeable personnel to take care of it as well as authority from KWS to keep it. It was weak and in poor body condition and is currently undergoing rehabilitation in Tsavo East.
The Mobile Veterinary Unit operated by The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust working with The Kenyan Wildlife Service and funded by Vier Pfoten