The Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit

Field Report - February 2006

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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.

The injured bull shortly after immobilisation  The immobilised bull, showing the injured left upper fore leg

Probing to determine the extent of the injury

Awaking from the operation  The elephant back on its feet after the first operation

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.

On Rukinga ranch in Voi a 15 year old elephant was reported limping on its right fore leg  Darting the young 15 year old elephant

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.

The leg was manipulated to feel wether or not it was fractured  Dr. Ndeereh administers the antibiotics before administering the revival drug

Helping the young elephant back onto its feet  The Rukinga elephant back on its feet

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 calf is darted

The 5 year old calf drops to the ground as the immobilisation drug takes hold  A close up of the snare

The unit works fast and ensures the calf is kept cool  The reversal drug is administered

The young elephant wakes up

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.

The young elephant in the herd, before the snare was removed  Soon after receiving the immobilisation drug the elephant went down proped against a log

The unit had to work fast because the elephant went down badly & they were unable to pull it free  The team had to work fast as the bad position the elephant was in could cause respiratory problems

A close up of the tight snare around the 15 year old elephant's trunk  Cutting the snare from the trunk

A close up of the wound on the trunk caused by the snare  Dr. David Ndeereh at work

Administering the reversal drug  The elephant back on her feet after the Vet Unit removed the snare from her trunk

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.

The Ziwani calf seen alone near the Voyager hotel  The Ziwani calf did hot have any visible problems

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.

The bull had a snare around its neck with the cable trailing, fortunately there was no injury  The young bull is darted

The long cable snare trailed behind the bull  The DSWT team cuts the cable snare from around the bull's neck

While the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust work to remove the snare numerous elephants are watching  Dr. Ndeereh administers the reversal drug

The Satao bull coming round

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.

A 6 year old calf in Amboseli carrying a spear on its left Para Lumbar Fossa  The spearing of the calf is thought to have happened a few hours before the case was reported

The spear fell off as we approached to dart the calf  The spear had gone through the skin but fortunately had not penetrated the abdominal cavity

A close up of the wound  Having examined the wound, Dr. Ndeereh administers the reversal drug

Waiting for the calf to wake up after the reversal drug is administered  The  young calf gets back to his feet

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.

This tiny one month old Zebra's mother was snatched by lions at the Amboseli Serena Lodge  The hotel had kept the calf for the weeks but didnt have the correct milk formula or able personnel

The rescued Zebra Foal is taken to the Voi unit to be raised & rehabilitated in Tsavo

The Mobile Veterinary Unit operated by The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust working with The Kenyan Wildlife Service and funded by Vier Pfoten