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 Sky Vets; Another timely treatment of an elephant bull - 8/7/2015
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A herd of big wild bulls visited the mudbath at Ithumba to take water on the 6th of August and it was noted by the Trust’s Keepers that one in the group of 10 huge bulls had a poisoned arrow wound, approximately two weeks old to the left flank. KWS Veterinarian Dr. Poghon and the DSWT funded Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit were busy with another two cases that day, 200kms away. The DSWT funded Sky Vets were called upon to ensure that the bull received timely treatment before he was lost in the vast expanse of the Northern Area of Tsavo East, an area of over 3000 square kilometers. 

KWS Veterinary Officer Fred Olianga was flown from the KWS Nairobi Veterinary headquarters to Ithumba where he was joined by the DSWT Ithumba anti-poaching team DSWT pilot Neville Sheldrick.  Neville was able to guide the team from the air to where the herd now were,  having moved off into the dense comiphora undergrowth, but with the vegetation so thick this made proceedings on foot challenging, and any support from a vehicle impossible.  Sadly the DSWT helicopter was away and not available on this particular day which would have simplified things. The herd instinctively formed a protective shield around their injured friend which made any chance of darting the elephant on foot almost impossible. Time passed and the hour grew late, with Neville from the air doing his best to coax the herd to open ground.

The team search on foot for the elephant  The DSWT patrols the skies observing the wounded bull

The team are forced to retreat  The plane lands at the Ithumba airstrip


Just as everyone was beginning to think that the operation would need to be deferred to the following day, the giant bulls began walking in the direction of the stockades to take water. The team retreated and waited patiently as the herd headed in the direction of the stockade water trough. This more open ground proved the perfect platform to dart the injured bull and wait for him to slump to the ground.

The bulls are seen at the waterhole  The team move in by vehicle

On examination, he had a large subcuticular abscess to the dorsal wall of the left flank. The abscess was lanced and 10 liters of foul smelling purulent discharge expressed.

The abscess is lanced  Lots of pus is washed from the wound

While carefully probing through the wound, the team retrieved an arrow head encapsulated within a tuft of fibrous tissue. The wound was thoroughly cleaned with copious volumes of clean water and Hydrogen Peroxide used to disinfect. Lugol’s Iodine was used to destroy the pyrogenic membrane and green clay applied for residual antibiosis.

An arrow head is removed  The team at work

The wound was further sprayed with antibiotic spray and intramuscular antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs were administered as well.  He was then revived and was soon back on his feet with a good prognosis as he will make a full recovery now that he has received treatment.

Antibiotics are adminstered  The vet teams work is almost done


We are deeply grateful to the KWS Veterinary department for mobilizing Dr. Olianga so hastily, supported through the DSWT funded Sky Vet program, and to DSWT pilot Neville Sheldrick for the many hours flown this day, as thanks to his dogged determination this elephant was finally treated at 5.10pm.   


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