The Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit

Field Report - February 2008

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February had slightly more activities than was January. The first case in the month was that of the zebra foal at the elephant stockades in Voi that had a discarded tin can in its right hind hoof. Despite the foal being habituated, it did not give us the slightest opportunity to get close to it in order to attempt physical restraint which we thought was possible. Therefore we resorted to chemical capture using a combination of Xylazine and Etorphine hydrochloride. This worked perfectly and the tin can was removed. It had not inflicted any injury.

The foal with a tin can on its right hind hoof

The foal goes down after being darted  The tin can was stuck on the foal's hoof

Next we went to Amboseli to administer a repeat treatment to an elephant with a spear injury that was previously treated twice when the unit was closed for the December holidays. The spear entered from the lateral aspect at the level of the left fetlock joint and exited from the medial side. Fortunately it went in under the skin and the joint was not affected, otherwise the prognosis would have been poor.  During the previous two treatments, moderate infection was reported but this had cleared during the current treatment. No infection had entered into the joint and the injury was healing properly. The animal was walking with a slight limp and did not manifest signs of much pain. The injury was cleaned and treated topically and systemic antibiotics administered. Reports so far indicate that there are no discharges (infection) and the openings are now almost covered by skin.

Cleaning the entry wound  The exit wound is cleaned

The entry and exit wounds after they are cleaned  The elephant after its wounds are cleaned and treated

The elephant gets to its feet

During the above visit in Amboseli, we also visited Serena Lodge to observe a vervet monkey that was said to have an injury on the lower jaw. Most of the tissues on the lower jaw had sloughed off leaving it bare. Some reports suggested this could be as a result of an infection rather than an injury.

The injured vervet monkey  The vervets jaw had sloughed off

 The monkey has been observed like this for several months now, some people we talked to saying up to six months.  To better understand the diagnosis (whether an injury or infection), we have invited experts from the Institute of Primate Research (IPR) to do further investigation.  We want to rule out Treponemal disease that causes the decay of facial tissues as the probable cause. The disease has been documented in primates mostly baboons and we consider this particular case worth detailed investigation. During the visit we did not observe any other vervet with a similar condition. People we talked to also said this was the only animal that they have seen.

Haller Park at Bamburi in Mombasa made a request to KWS in January 2008 for permission to euthanize two elands in its facility. The elands were said to be unable to feed properly due to old age (estimated at 13 and 14 years). This, the report said, resulted to poor health. We were requested to visit the park and assess their conditions before permission could be granted. We did this on 11th February and contrary to the reports, the animals looked healthy without any sign of poor health. The body conditions were good and we did not find any reason to have them put down.

The two Elands

We were informed that the conditions improved once feeding rations were increased, especially commercial concentrates. Browse that is provided from outside may also have been inadequate for sometime. The management was advised to ensure proper feeding regime at all times to avoid recurrence of the problem in future. They were also advised to consult the unit for assessment of their conditions should the animals revert back to poor health again.

One of the only two remaining giraffes in Shimba Hills National Reserve (most died from post translocation related complications  after they were introduced from Luarenyi ranch in Tsavo several years back) was reported by visitors to be carrying a snare on the left hind leg. The management after confirming this information called the unit to help remove the snare before it could get tight (it was said to be very loose). When we arrived the following day however, we found the wire snare had already come off, thus saving the giraffe the stresses of immobilisation and capture. The snare had not inflicted any injury.

The giraffe in the foregroud is the one that had the snare

Notching ears of rhinos for identification and monitoring purposes is routinely done in different rhino sanctuaries in the country. In 2006, we ear notched 8 black rhinos in Ngulia sanctuary in Tsavo West for this purpose. This year we targeted 20 more to make the total number of ear notched and positively identifiable rhinos to 47 of the estimated population of 64-70. This operation was undertaken between the 20th and 22nd of this month jointly with a team from KWS headquarters.

Marking the ear before it is notched  An rhino's ear that has been notched

Disinfecting a notched ear

An already ear notched black rhino

Before the ear notching work we were in Kimana sanctuary to remove a spear from a bull elephant lodged in the head just at the base of the trunk.  But for two days we did not find it and up to the time of preparing this report the search in and around Ambosei Park and Kimana sanctuary had not yielded any fruits. The elephant which is commonly seen in the sanctuary in a bachelor herd of six is amongst those monitored by the Amboseli Elephant Research Project. The other herd members are still in the sanctuary and the research team is still determined to find their missing member so that treatment can be administered before it is too late

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