The Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit
Field Report - August 2006
Return to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
We started the activities for August with a request to conduct a clinical examination of five KWS tracker dogs at Ithumba in Northern Tsavo East.
The request was made following the death of another dog in the Ithumba kernels from suspected Infectious Canine Hepatitis (ICH). It died en-route to Nairobi for treatment when we were away. An autopsy was carried out which revealed lesions consistent with the disease.
The remaining dogs were found to be healthy and the vaccination records including for ICH are up to date.
The dead dog was also immunised against the disease and a booster was due in November 2006. We are yet to establish what caused the disease in an immunised dog.
On the 15th we treated a bull elephant at Lake Jipe in Southern Tsavo West which had an arrow wound on the inner side of the left fore leg.
The injury had not yet affected the gait and posture to a significant degree but it was moderately infected. High doses of an antibiotic were given systemically and the injury cleaned and treated topically.
No complications are expected to develop but the rangers based at the lake will keep an eye on it and report if it will show signs of re-infection.
The next activity was on the 18th, when we removed a wire snare from a male Impala near Voi Safari lodge. The snare looked fresh and it had not inflicted any injury.
Latter on the 18th, the Unit was actively involved in the rescue of a three months elephant calf from the Chyulu Hills. The calf was in perfect health and the prognosis to undergo the rehabilitation program in the Nairobi nursery is good.
Reports so far indicate that it has adapted very well to the rehabilitation program.
Before we embarked on the above investigation, we came across a giraffe carrying a loose snare round its neck in the same area. We successfully removed it and proceeded with the investigation.
Livestock herders at Wananchi ranch reported a 7-year-old elephant with a swollen right hind leg that was affecting movement in a significant way on the 23rd. We found it was a condition which we could not assist. The leg was swollen at the knee joint and there was no external injury.
The animal was walking with a lot of difficult and could not put its weight on the leg. We thought the condition was probably caused by a long-standing fracture that has failed to heal properly.
We recommended the animal to be put down because the condition was affecting movement to feed and water and was not treatable. The body condition was not good. This was done the following day by the personnel from the Community Department who also recovered the tusks.
Later that evening, a lioness with a loose snare on the neck was sighted near Voi Safari Lodge. The sighting was done very late in the evening when already dark to attempt immobilisation. The pride, which comprised of 12 members, was seen the following morning at the lodge’s water hole. The snare was said to be at the chin, which means the lioness was attempting to remove it. When we arrived, we did not find any with a snare and it was thought that it had finally managed to remove it.
If this was the case, then the lioness was saved from the stresses of capture. We have seen the pride several times after that but none has a snare.
We also received a report of an adult elephant seen limping at Punda Milia area in Tsavo East. Our search found one elephant in the same general area lame on the right hind leg.
It seemed to have sustained a fracture long time ago which re-united abnormally. It manifested no pain during movement and was also observed to be able to bare weight on the leg.
Intervention was considered to be unnecessary. Five other elephants lame on one of the hind leg have been seen and reported previously.
On the 25th we received the report of a 5-6 months elephant calf seen limping on its left fore leg near Aruba.
It could barely put weight on the leg, which was also very swollen and discharging puss at the carpal joint. On immobilisation, we found some bone fragments sticking out of the injury. Probing revealed more bone fragments inside. The injury was most likely caused by a bullet that shattered the bones.
The prognosis for recovery was unfavourable and the calf was therefore euthanased with intravenous 20% Pentobarbitone (Euthatal).
We had to also immobilise the mother after it refused to leave the immobilised calf.
In July 2006, we reported assisting Bamburi’s Haller Park in Mombasa translocate some animals it donated to Ndara ranch in Voi. These comprised of six Oryx and three waterbucks. Bamburi had also donated six elands to Ndara but we could not move them that time because of lack of logistical preparations to capture and move this species. These were put in place this month and the Unit helped to capture and move five of the six elands targeted.
The sixth was not captured because of limitations of space in the transport trucks but will be moved at a later date.
The semi-tame elands were herded into an enclosure where darting and recovery was done.
Etorphine and Azaperone Tartarate were used for the immobilisation. Etorphine was reversed after loading and Azaperone tranquilised the animals during transport. The exercise went on smoothly without incident.
Finally was the treatment of one of the KWS camels at Kone in Tsavo East that was reported to be off feed and coughing. We did not find anything significant on clinical examination. The body condition was good and the animal looked bright and alert.
A blood smear was made to check for Tryps but it was negative. Some small swellings on the abdomen were assessed to be insignificant. De-worming was recommended. A pour on will also be supplied in due course to treat the tick infestation.
Two animals were reported with snares but they were not found. These were a giraffe that was reported in our absence at the beginning of the month at Kanderi in Tsavo East. The search is still ongoing. The other was a female buffalo with a snare on the horns at Salt Lick lodge reported on the 29th. It was in a large herd of 500-600, which made it very difficult to see it. The herd was very excitable and we could not manage to approach within reasonable distance to be able to find the target.
It had been seen briefly at a water hole at the Taita Hills Sanctuary. Attempts to find it will be made in September.
The Mobile Veterinary Unit operated by The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust working with The Kenyan Wildlife Servide and funded by Vier Pfoten