The Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit

Field Report - July 2008

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The first week of July we had three cases in Tsavo West. The first were reports of four dead zebras, two near Mzima springs and two others near Kitani Severin Camp. The causes of the deaths were not known and we were called to go make a diagnosis. We found the two near Mzima springs having been scavenged completely. One of the two carcasses near Kitani was relatively fresh but the other was too decomposed and most of it had been scavenged. We conducted an autopsy on the first. The body condition was fair and organs had no lesions. The only significant findings were a haemorhagic enteritis involving most of the intestines and hundreds of Gasterophilus larvae (a parasitic fly) in the stomach. The larvae had caused considerable damage to the stomach wall. We suscepected the cause of death to be complications arising from the infestation. The parasitic fly spends part of its larval stage in the digestive tracts of herbivores. The larvae cause considerable swelling around the points of attachment. Heavy infestation result in chronic gastritis, loss of condition and in rare cases perforations and death. They may also lead to subserosal abseccess and death from peritonitis when the larvae infestation is high. We observed the same parasites in the gastro-intestinal contents of the second zebra near Kitani.

One of the dead zebras found at Mzima springs  The second dead zebra at Kitani

The first dead zebra at Kitani

An autopsy is performed on the dead zebra

Performing the autopsy  There was alot of gastrophilus larvae in the dead zebras stomach

The other two cases involved arrow injuries in two elephant bulls near the Tsavo West park headquarters (Kamboyo). Both injuries were on the abdomen. The first was not serious and the infection was moderate. We expected it to heal without any complication.

The immobilized bull

Making sure the wound is clean

A wound on the elephants left was also disinfected

The second however had a more serious injury. The infection was heavy with large quantities of thick white pus. Some tissues inside the injury were necrotic and were trimmed out. The pus was drained as much as we could and cleaned with copious amounts of hydrogen peroxide and water. Large quantities of Lugol’s iodine and an amoxycillin based antibiotic oitment (Opticlox®) were infused into the injury. A systemic antibiotic was also administered. As we administered the treatment we recognised the guarded prognosis especially if infection had entered into the peritoneal cavity but because the animal was still in good body condition and feeding well we thought we could give it a chance.

The arrow wound was heavily infected

Cleaning the wound  Pieces of necrotic tissue were coming out during treatment

There was alot of pus as the wound was heavily infected

The wound after it is cleaned and treated

The bull back on its feet after treament

Close monitoring was to be instituted thereafter and we were to be updated on the progress. The bull was seen several days after having improved. It was thereafter lost untill the last week of the month when it reappeared briefly. We were informed that it had made considerable improvement. A second treatment is being considered when the bull is seen again.

There were two other cases at Voi Safari Lodge in Tsavo East both involving snares. The first was a young water buck with the snare loose around the neck.

Removing the snare from around the waterbucks neck

The waterbuck after the snare is removed  The waterbuck rejoins its herd

The second was a buffalo bull with a tight snare on the lower right fore leg. The injury was very fresh and still oozing blood; it  might have arisen as it tried to free itself several hours before the animal was seen.

The snare was around the buffaloes leg

The snare was cut in order to remove it.

Removing the snare from the waterbuck

Lastly was replacement of collars in three lions collared last year in Amboseli national park. Two of the collars had died and were no longer transmitting signals  while reports said that the collar in the third had become tight and required readjustment. This was however found to be untrue but nevertheless, the lion was immobillised and the collar replaced. The table below summarises the details of the three lions.

The immobilized lioness

Removing the old collar

The new collar about to be fitted  The lioness awake after the reversal drug was administered

Table 1: Lion re-collaring operation in Amboseli NP between 11- 13th July 2008

                                    Lion 1(“Amy Jane”)         Lion 2 (“Kip”)      Lion 3 (“Ambogga”)

Sex                              Female                         Male                 Male    

Age                              6-7 years                       4-5 years           4-5 years

Health status                 Very good                     Average Very good

Collar Status                 Died in Feb ’08              Allegedly tight    Died in June ‘08

Observations                 In a group of 6                Alone                Mating/in a group of 4

during collaring                                                                                                                         

The collaring project aims at 1) raising awareness among the local people about lion movements and how to prevent livestock raiding, and at 2) analyzing the movement patterns of lions in the Amboseli ecosystem. Thus, adequate measures can be taken to mitigate the loss of livestock due to lion predation. The lions are being monitored for two years.

Report by Dr. David Ndeerh

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