The Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit
Field Report - October 2006
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As reported in September, this month we were engaged in elephant translocation exercises. Last month, 132 elephants were removed from the 63 Sq. Km Ngulia black rhino sanctuary in Tsavo West and released into the rhino valley in the park where there is adequate browse and water. Thereafter, the team left for Shimba Hills in Kwale where the target was to move 250 elephants to the northern Tsavo East, about 300 Km away. This operation was scheduled to take about one month from the 29th September to the end of October.
However, rains came before the expected time and this slowed the capture very significantly. Most of the roads were cut off by the rains and became un-motorable. By the time the operation was suspended on the 24th October, we had managed to move 78 elephants. More rains are predicted in the area and a decision was made to translocate the remaining elephants at a latter date.
So far, significant habitat regeneration in the Mwaluganje elephant sanctuary next to Shimba hills has been noted following the removal of 150 elephants one year ago.
The local communities have also reported reduced incidences of human-elephant conflicts and are very appreciative of the efforts to reduce the elephant numbers in the Shimba Hills ecosystem.
After the suspension of the Shimba Hills operation, the team relocated to Ngulia where they removed all the remaining 61 elephants from the sanctuary on the 26th, 27th and the 28th. In total therefore, 248 (17 in October 2005, 38 in June 2006, 132 in September 2006 and 61 in October 2006) were removed. An aerial recce has confirmed that there are no more elephants. Most of the elephants removed were in poor body conditions and weak. Fortunately, none succumbed to the capture and relocation to the rhino valley.
The sanctuary is very degraded as the elephant numbers were far beyond the carrying capacity. The degradation and the competition of the rhinos and elephants for browse and water had affected the performance of the former. Intense monitoring of the habitat regeneration and the rhinos is being undertaken. Meanwhile, plans to extend the sanctuary are at an advanced stage.
In both captures, family units were captured and moved together in a mass transportation crate. The largest family unit captured was 12 and the smallest was four.
Darting was done from a helicopter and the matriarch was darted first followed by the next biggest females and lastly the young ones.
Very small calves were captured manually and tranquillised. Matriarchs and the very young were recovered first. Bulls were darted individually and transported in own containers.
Animals were tranquillised with Azaperone to calm them during transport.
On the 8th of October we received a report of an injured bull in the Tsavo Triangle that was dragging its left hind leg. The bull, aged about 45 years, was located near the Athi River where it had gone to drink and we found it on the Athi River Bank.
Immobilisation and treatment was arranged for the next day. A de-snaring team was left near the bull overnight to monitor its movements, but due to its injuries it was unable to move far. The bull was darted for treatment and upon immobilised it was noticed that it had several arrow wounds on different parts of its body, all of which were heavily infected.
The wounds that were reachable were treated and a large dose of long acting antibiotic was administered. Upon revival the bull was unable to get to its feet even with our assistance.
Due to the bull's weakened state and the heavy infection still present in its body it was euthanased to prevent further suffering.
The Mobile Veterinary Unit operated by The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust working with the Kenyan Wildlife Service and funded by Vier Pfoten