The Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit

Field Report - November 2006

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As is the seasonal trend over the years whereby the caseload goes down in the wet seasons, there were few cases this month. The rains have been good and well spread for the last two months. When it rains, the incidences of human-wildlife conflicts go down as most animals come back to the parks from the community lands and the incidences of subsistence poaching also go down. The animals also become difficult to see as they get widely dispersed in the parks because water and pastures are abundantly available in many places. There were two snare cases at Ndii area in Tsavo East both involving buffaloes. The Burra de-snaring team came across the two a few metres from each other still tethered by the snares to some bushes.

The buffalo struggling to get free from the snare  The snared buffalo is darted

Dr. Ndeereh administers a long acting antibiotic  Cutting the snare in order to remove it

The wound caused by the snare  The buffalo free from the snare

We responded immediately they informed us and rescued both animals successfully. One of the buffaloes had an abscess on the right fore leg which was lanced and cleaned.

The buffalo struggles to free itself  The snare is around the buffaloes head

The snare cutting into the buffaloes face  Cutting the snare

The abcess on the buffaloes right fore leg  Cleaning the abcess to remove the infection

The abcess after it is lanced and cleaned  Preparing the long acting braod spectrum antibiotic injection

The buffalo freed from the snare

We were also called to Kimana sanctuary in Amboseli to treat an elephant bull with a swollen right fore leg.

The bull's whole leg front left leg is swollen

However, our assessment was that the prognosis was poor and the condition was not treatable. The entire leg was swollen and the animal could barely bear any weight on it. It was walking on three legs. The body condition was very poor.

The injured bull is in poor condition  The mobile vet unit approached the injured weak bull

We were informed that the animal spends most of the time lying down at the airstrip within the sanctuary and rarely moves to feed and water. It had been seen and treated by a vet from Nairobi three weeks before but the condition had since deteriorated. There was no visible external injury. We suspected poisoned arrow made from a nail; this is a common method of poaching. The arrow leaves no visible wound if it falls off. We recommended it to be put down.

The big bull is euthanased

As part of the Global Rinderpest Eradication Programme (GREP) coordinated by Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) globally and the International Bureau for Animal Research under African Union (AU-IBAR) in Africa, rinderpest disease is closely monitored in wildlife in the Eastern part of Africa, and especially in Kenya. The disease has been eradicated in most parts of the world apart from the Somali ecosystem because surveillance and control structures do not exist in Somalia. The outbreaks of the disease in Kenya in 1998-99 and 2001 in Tsavo, Meru and Nairobi were thought to have originated from there. The disease continues to have detrimental impact on livestock economics as Kenya cannot access the global livestock markets. Kenya is currently applying for the disease freedom and freedom from infection to the Office International d’Epizooties (OIE) and is required to provide enough serological data for at least 10 years since the last disease outbreak before these status can be given.

Drawing blood for testing  Putting the blood into vials

Blood for testing

As part of this effort, sero-surveillance surveys of susceptible wildlife species has been going on this year. Already, this was done in the Tsavo, Meru as well as Eastern, North-Eastern and Coast provinces in April-March this year.

The tested animals are numbered

The results from these areas were negative. The surveillance is currently ongoing in the Rift Valley (Amboseli, Maasai Mara, Naivasha, Nakuru, Laikipia, Samburu, Ruma, etc). The surveillance was carried out in Amboseli national park and the surrounding dispersal areas and ranch lands between the 21st and 27th of this month.

Taking blood from a giraffe  One of the giraffes from which blood was drawn

This exercise was undertaken by the Tsavo Vet Unit with the assistance of a laboratory technician and capture rangers from Nairobi.

A darted buffalo

Forty-eight young animals between the ages 0f 1.5-5 years comprising of 38 buffaloes,

An immobilised buffalo

9 giraffes and one waterbuck were immobilised and sampled.

The immobilised waterbuck  Taking blood for testing

Drawing blood from the waterbuck

Sera was harvested from collected blood by centrifugation after 6 hours of clot formation and submitted to the Veterinary Investigation Laboratory at Kabete, the National Veterinary Research Centre at KARI Muguga, the Institute of Animal Health at Pirbright UK, and CIRAD in France. Results are awaited. Below are pictures sampling different animals.

A giraffe getting to its feet

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