The Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit

Field Report - June 2007

 Return to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Website

The two lion cubs rescued last month were taken to the Nairobi orphanage on the 1st of June because appropriate facilities to hold them were lacking in Tsavo. In particular, the cage at Ndolwa house was substandard and did not meet requirements for holding a lion.

The cage at Ndolwa House  Peparing the lion cub for transportation

The lion cub in the transportation cage  Loading the cub into the back of the mobile veterinary unit vehicle

Under instructions from the Tsavo Area Assistant Director, the cub was withdrawn from the facility and together with the one quarantined at the Tsavo Research station they were taken to Nairobi where the Orphanage curator received them in good condition. If the curator finds it necessary, he will recommend their adoption by licensed and responsible persons with suitable facilities and expertise to keep them for conservation and education purposes.

On 1st of June, we received reports from Amboseli about Maasai morans who went on the rampage the previous day and speared an unconfirmed number of elephants. Some reports said that about five elephants were injured. One of the speared elephants was a bull attacked at Oldare area in the park. It had to be shot by KWS rangers because the injuries were too many and serious such that it could not survive. The other affected elephants were from one family. The reason given by the Maasai for this act was that they were angry because an elephant had killed a woman outside the park while fetching firewood.

For three days however, we did not find the affected family despite concerted search efforts by several ground teams and aerial support. The family was thought to have crossed over to Tanzania for it was nowhere in the park and the surrounding dispersal areas and ranch lands. Twelve days after the spearing incident, a female member of the family with an injury on the lower front right leg was seen coming back towards the border from Tanzania. That time however, we had taken a break to attend to some family emergencies. A vet was therefore called from Nairobi to administer treatment, which he did the following day.  Thereafter, the elephant moved to Oldare area in the park where it has been up to the time of writing this report. The recovery progress has not been good. It moves very little with lots of difficulties and the injury was discharging pus. A second treatment and assessment was considered necessary and this was done on the 25th

The injury, which was on the right fore carpal joint, was moderately infected and very deep. It is possible that infection may have entered into the joint thus the poor progress. The entire leg was swollen unlike during the first treatment when only the area around the injury was affected.

Dr. Ndeereh prepares to dart the elephant  The immobilised elephant

The wound before treatment, the leg is very swollen  Cleaning the wound

The wound was heavily infected  The cleaned wound is sprayed with a topical antibiotic spray

The elephant gets back to her feet

It was decided that treatment would be administered and the animal monitored closely. If progress this time round would be unsatisfactory, we might think of putting it down before it deteriorates further. The injury was treated topically and systemic antibiotics administered. At the time of writing this report, the elephant was said to be in the same general area without any noticeable change in its condition. The rest of the family members have not been seen.

On the 5th of June, we de-snared an Impala near Voi gate in Tsavo East

The immobilised Impala with the snare  The impala dashes off after the snare is removed

The snare

and also treated a 1½ years old elephant calf at Ndololo area with two heavily infected suspected arrow injuries on the left hind leg. The snare in the Impala was still fresh and had not inflicted any injury. The prognosis for recovery of the calf was not good and another treatment was scheduled to be done several days after.

The calf with the rest of the herd  The immobilised calf

A close up of the injured left hind leg  Cleaning the infected wound

Dr. Ndeereh administers a long lasting antibiotic  The wound after it is cleaned and treated

However, due to some family emergencies, we were forced to take a break for about a week. We have been trying to search and enquire from tour guides/drivers and patrol rangers about the family since we resumed back but no news so far on its whereabouts. We therefore do not know the outcome so far but the search will go on.  During the treatment of this calf, the family became too protective and aggressive and we were forced to immobilise the mother too in order facilitate the treatment. The mother went down about 30metres from the calf. They were rejoined at the end of the operation.

Another elephant case was that of a four-year old at Ndara, which was reported on the 15th while travelling back to Tsavo from from the break reported above. The report said that it was limping heavily on its left fore leg. We searched and found the calf with its mother several kilometres from where it was seen the previous day. The carpal joint was swollen but there was no visible injury. We immobilised the calf to diagnose and treat the problem. The mother became too aggressive when the calf went down and we had to dart it too.

The calf is darted  The calf's mother is also darted

The swelling was very firm and affecting the mobility of the joint. It had no opening and we did not find any contents on aspiration at different sites with a needle and syringe.

A close up of the affected area  Dr. Ndeereh checks the affected area

The mother back on her feet after the reversal drug is administered  Mother and calf reunited

Probably, the condition might have arisen from a fracture sustained long time ago. Because the calf could move and browse and was in good body condition, we thought we could monitor its progress and if movement became extremely difficult, we could make another decision. Mother and calf have been seen twice now in the same general area.

On the June 17th, security rangers on patrol encountered an elephant bull at Dakota area in Tsavo East with what was suspected to be an arrow injury on the left shoulder. The injury was seen discharging pus. The report was conveyed to us the following morning. When we immobilised it however, we found another more serious injury on ventral abdomen which had not been seen. The injury was deep and heavily infected.  We could not determine the cause. Both injuries were treated and opened up to facilitate drainage of pus that could form after the treatment.

The immobilised bull  A close up of the shoulder wound

Cleaning the shoulder wound  Cleaning the wound in the ventral abdomen

The reversal drug is administered after treatment  The bull comes round after the reversal drug is administered

We are being assisted to locate the easily identifiable single tusked elephant by the pilot because the rangers cannot find it from the ground. Finding it will enable assessment of the progress and determine whether we can give it another treatment.

Finally, we recommended that a KWS tracker dog in northern Tsavo East at Ithumba be taken to Nairobi for specialised treatment following recurrence of a tumor of the lower left thoracic wall muscles. 

The KWS tracker dog  The tumor on the dog's left thoracic wall muscles

The tumor was operated on three years ago and only started to re-grow a few months ago.  The dog is active and does not show any signs of discomfort or pain.  It is the best tracker dog KWS has and it was the opinion that combined surgical and medical treatment could be attempted to prolong its life.

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