The Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit

Field Report - September 2008

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Just like August, September also had few incidences of animal injuries. Most of the month was spent conducting patrols in different parts of the protected areas. Animals sighted were in good health status despite the dry spell. Reports of dead and sick Somali livestock along Sala-Dakota Tsavo East park boundary were received.  These were verified by the vets from the Ministry of Livestock (Department of Vet Services) and appropriate samples collected. They are being analysed and results are awaited. So far there are no mortalities involving wildlife. Monitoring of wildlife from the ground and from the air has been intensified. In the meantime, a disease surveillance mission is being arranged with the financial support of African Union- Inter-African Bureau for Animal Research (AU-IBAR).

We had one elephant aged about 8-9 years at Kanderi in Tsavo East with an extensive injury caused by a snare on its mid right hind leg. The wound was deep, infected and with lots of necrotic tissues and maggots. The snare however had come off. We treated the wound topically and trimmed off much of the necrotic tissues. Large doses of a systemic antibiotic were given. There has been no further sighting of the elephant. The prognosis was nevertheless favourable.

The elephant is darted  Part of the wound before treament

A close up of the wound before treatment  Cleaning the wound

Removing the necrotic tissue  Disinfecting the wound

The wound after it is cleaned and disinfected  Part of the wound after treament

A close up of the wound after treatment  The elephant gets back to its feet after the revival drug is administered

Another elephant with a snare this time on the trunk was also treated at Taita Salt Lick Sanctuary. The snare was not very tight. Some slight injury had been caused round the trunk. It was removed and the injury treated topically.

The immobilized elephant and the rest of its herd

The snare around the elephants trunk  Cleaning the wound caused by the snare

The snare that caused the wound on the elephants trunk  A close up of the wound after it is cleaned and treated

The elephant gets back to its feet

There were reports of a giraffe with a snare near Aruba (along Aruba- Sala road) which arrived to us on the 22nd, two days after the sighting. We have tried to look for it without success. The search will continue in October. The snare is allegedly loose around the neck but trailing and it might tighten with time due to constantly being stepped on as the animal walks.

We were also requested to assess the extent of damage to sisal plants at Dwa Sisal Estate by baboons, vervet monkeys and bush pigs. The animals eat the succulent bulb (spike) that sprouts out into the leaves. This has long term negative impacts on the productivity of the plant. Baboons are the most abundant and notorious for they damage both mature and young plants. The other two species damage young plants only. The estate management estimates annual losses of between 10 and 11 million Kenya shillings in lost productivity and employment of guards to keep away the animals.  The problem is most concentrated at Tisya forest, a 200 hectare piece of land centrally placed in the estate and completely surrounded by huge sisal plantations at different stages of growth. The number of baboons in this ‘island’ forest is estimated at 100 in troops of 4 or 5. The forest is targeted for expansion of the plantations. Food especially in the dry seasons is scarce and this escalates the conflict further. The expansion of sisal growing areas spells doom for the baboon population which has no escape routes for they are surrounded by huge plantations. Furthermore during the day, there are guards who ensure they are confined within the forest as well as people working in the plantations; thus they cannot escape.  We recommended that the animals be trapped en mass and be relocated inside deep Tsavo East away from human settlements. Feasibility studies for such an exercise are being looked at. Bush pigs and vervet monkeys are not many in the forest and the damage arising from them is not significant. Other areas affected were at the estate boundaries and the problem is not as much as in Tisya forest possibly because it is shared with the neighbouring communities. These areas are at Mpirani forest in the south, Kibwezi forest in the west and Kibwezi River in the east next to the University of Nairobi farm.

Sisal plantation  A plant whose spike has been damaged

One of the guard houses around the Tisya forest

There was also the report of an elephant with a spear lodged on its trunk in Amboseli sighted on 8th evening. By the time we arrived the following day, the elephant had disappeared and despite three days of concerted efforts by three teams and aerial support we did not find it. It was said to have been injured several hours before the sighting. The discomfort and the pain were too much to bear and it was always on the move which complicated the all night monitoring. The rangers assigned to track it overnight lost it in difficult terrain where it became difficult to follow.

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