The Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit

Field Report - August 2007

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As reported in July, we were involved in the mass capture and translocation of various ungulate species to Meru National Park between the 26th July and 3rd August. During that period, 195 zebras and 143 impalas were captured and moved to Meru. The principle of the mass capture method is that animals are driven by a helicopter into a large plastic sheeting funnel system.

Impalas herded to the ramp  Herd of zebras being pushed to the ramp

Once inside, they regard the plastic sheeting as a solid wall and seldom attempt to escape through it. Once the animals are trapped by closing plastic curtains across the entrance and several other points inside the system, they are chased up the funnel by assistants working inside the system into a solid-sided crush and then up a loading ramp into a waiting lorry.

The loading ramp  The zebras on the loading ramp

The system is most effective in bushy areas where it can easily be camouflaged by vegetation. The target is to move over 700 zebras and 1,200 impalas from various locations in Naivasha, Nakuru and Laikipia. The exercise is still ongoing.

Several cases were attended to on return from the above exercise. This included a female Impala at Satao camp in Tsavo East that had fractured lower right femur.

The Impala showing the fractured limb  The Impalas had a fractured lower right femur

It was euthanized. Also at the camp’s water hole was an elephant with a tight trailing snare on the neck, which luckily was fresh and had not inflicted any injury. The snare was successfully removed.

The snared elephant with the rest of the herd  Cutting the snare in order to remove it

A close up of the wound caused by the snare  The elephant back on its feet after the snare is removed

These two cases were reported on the 6th and 10th of August respectively.

Another case involving a snare was that of a four-year-old elephant calf at Voi Safari Lodge also with the snare on the neck and no injury. It was treated on the 15th August.

The calf goes down after being darted  Cutting the snare in order to remove it

The calf back on her feet after the snare is removed

We think this was the same calf that was later seen alone near the Voi Airstrip the following day. It could not be rescued because of the size. It was monitored and thereafter observed joining a family that was several hundred metres away. We could not confirm whether this was the same group it was with during treatment. Two days after, the calf joined the elephants at the Voi Stockades while out feeding and accompanied them back to the stables in the evening.

The calf with the Voi eles  The calf is darted in order to get her into the stockade

The calf is pulled into the stockade  Msinga comes to after the reversal drug is administered

Msinga in the Voi stockade  The elephant gets back to its feet after the reversal drug is administered

It however refused to get into the stables with the rest for the night upon which it was darted and pulled inside with a vehicle (it was too heavy to be lifted.)  It is no longer nervous and has integrated well with the other elephants.

Three more elephant cases were reported this month.  We did not intervene in one seen at Kanderi in Tsavo East which was lame on the left hind leg.

The lame elephant at Kanderi

The case was similar to the one reported in July which was also lame on the same leg and reported in the same area. However, we positively identified them as different animals. This animal joins a list of close to ten different lame animals seen in different locations of the park.

In Lumo sanctuary, another lame elephant was reported on the 27th. When we arrived at the sight we could not positively identify the cause because the elephant was guarded by a big group of about 20 animals.

The family guard the immobilised elephant  The immobilised elephant

Dr. David Ndeereh examines the leg  The swollen carpal joint

We resorted to immobilise it to observe closely upon which we found no injury but the right carpal joint was slightly swollen and not flexible. We revived the animal and let it rejoin its family because it could cope up with the condition.

Lastly on the 28th, we treated an elephant bull in Amboseli which had the entire right fore leg swollen and was walking with a lot of difficulties. We could not see any injury from a distance and on being darted it went down on the right side which complicated any observations that could be made. The elephant had decubital ulcers (pressure sores) on the hip, a manifestation that it frequently lied down and would then struggle to stand up. We thought we could give it high doses of an antibiotic and observe the response in the next few days.

The immobilised elephant lying on the affected leg  A high dose of antiboitic is administered

Dr. Ndeereh cleans the pressure sore

This was done and the pressure sores treated topically. Reports from Amboseli at the time of preparing this report say that the elephant has since been put down when the condition deteriorated very much. It is highly suspected that the elephant had a bullet injury sustained across the border in Tanzania.

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