FIELD VETERINARY REPORT FOR SOUTHERN CONSERVATION AREA MOBILE VETERINARY UNIT FOR THE MONTH OF MAY; 2018
Reported by Ndambiri Ephantus
The Amboseli Ecosystem has experienced two months of relentless rains. Heavy down pours have transformed the ecosystem from a sun stricken bare land to a rich and plentiful landscape. Savannahs are full with grass as well as scanty thickets which are blossoming. The once dry Amboseli Lake is now swollen with runoff rain water over spilling its original outlines. Wild animals continue to seek shelter and inhabit raised environs of Community Conservancies leaving the park with only handfuls of different species. Roads within the park continue to be submerged as rains continue resulting in the closure of many circuits. The vegetation regeneration and plentiful water has resulted in minimum contact with human and wildlife and it is thought this has contributed to low incidences of human-wildlife conflict.
Following are veterinary activities attended to during the month;
CASE # 1; EMACIATED LION CUBS
Species: Lion (Panthera Leo)
Location: Amboseli National Park
During the Units routine park patrol on this day, the team came across ten lion cubs who were basking at the edge of the road at mid-morning. It was unusual to see them in such an open location and after keen observation it was noted that they were in poor body condition at 1.5 and 2 at where a score of 5 is the best. They were of two sizes seemingly belonging to two litters. There were no other older members of the pride present. It appeared that they had been left behind as they could not keep up with the pace of the other pride members. This could have been due to the poor body condition they were in. It was also possible that a meal was hard to come by at this particular time because heavy rains had reduced the wildlife within the park.
These cubs seemed to be suffering from extreme hunger. A decision to feed them was made and park administration was informed of the same. Meat was to be sourced by the Tourism Warden and brought to the site so that they could be fed. During the feeding it was important to establish whether the cubs were in need of rescue if no other member of pride was seen.
The security and Vet Unit teamed up for the feeding exercise. The Vet unit had traced the cubs to their new location about twenty meters from the previous location. The meat was in two halves. They were approached by use of vehicle slowly and at about five meters one half was thrown to them. They immediately picked the scent and walked to the meat. All of them descended onto the meat gluttonously and within five minutes they begun to roar against one another. No cub seemed sick as they fed energetically and begun to have full tummies. The other half was thrown to them and within the next seven minutes their roars were deep and far reaching.
As we witnessed the feeding, we observed some reflection which turned out to be the eyes of the seemingly pride members. They continued to come closer and we counted five individuals. Four seemed to be young adults with one large lioness that had an enlarged udder. The young adults approached the feeding site and amazingly did not take the meat from the younger ones. They picked the meatless bones and started crushing them. The cubs seemed to be satisfied as they rose up disinterested. The lioness observed from a distance after recognizing that there was no distress call.
With enough feeding the cubs have fair prognosis. This is especially so if they don’t move out of park to community area.
PATROL WITHIN AMBOSELI NATIONAL PARK
Location: Amboseli National Park
The Vet Unit carried out surveillance within the Amboseli National Park. This was aimed at establishing the effect of the two months heavy rains to the ecosystem and impact on the wildlife animals. The patrol covered the park extensively. The whole area is soaked in water which has come as a result of runoff from the surrounding higher areas. As a result the Amboseli Lake is no longer dry as it forms the lowest point of the park. Within the lake and other pockets of water one can observe wading and other water birds including hundreds of flamingos who can be seen busy feeding.
The savannahs and acacias are at their best turning the area greener than ever. The Acacia’s can be seen flowering as conditions are very favorable for reproduction and blossoming. Despite plenty of feed and browse the park does not have the usual wild animal large populations. There were only a few elephants and small herds of other grazers like zebras, wildebeests, gazelles and other antelopes. The few animals seen were in good health.
CASE#2 SNARED ELEPHANT
Species: Loxodonta africana
Location: Shimba Hills National Reserve
This elephant was reported by the Reserve Warden through a radio message on 15/5/2018. It was said to have a snare around the right forelimb above the fetlock joint resulting in a bleeding traumatic wound. The candidate was at the edge of a road within the reserve in the company of another male. The Vet Unit responded on the 18th through 20th May, 2018. The reserve security team kept tracking the candidate till the day Vet Unit arrived.
Examination and attempted immobilization
The candidate was found in company of another big male near the waterhole. The vet unit anticipated the elephant to be shy from prior experience with elephants living in the forested hilly area so prepared everything needed for desnaring including drugs and darts. The security team led the vet unit on foot to the elephant whose footprints were clear making the trail easy to follow. However after several hours of tracking the team had only glimpsed the lower bodies of the elephants due to their shyness and thick bush cover. The exercise was called off by late afternoon with further tracking planned in the evening. In the evening the vet unit patrolled all passable roads in a vehicle but was unable to spot the candidate. The exercise was postponed to the following day which was even worse than the previous day. The animals were very scared and could not be approached. After five hours search we bumped into them when they were behind a thick bush. They fled such distance they were not seen or heard again. It was becoming seemingly difficult to keep behind their trails as they were more irritable and restless.
It appeared that the trauma originating from the snare had terrified the candidates hence they endeavored to keep away from human beings. It also emerged that the animal was not lame and the wound was bleeding meaning the snare was less than a week old. The candidate was able to make terrific flights up and down when tracked and the snared elephant track was not easy to distinguish from unsnared suggesting it was not in immediate danger. The animal had enough browse and many water pans within its habitat where an ambush could be set for darting. However, the candidate was left to settle down so that tracking could be attempted.
It was recommended that the Reserve Security Team carry out passive tracking of the animal possibly for a week by motoring around to give the animal time to settle down. During which they would monitor its progress and behavior and report if an intervention could be done.
It was given guarded prognosis until treatment when the prognosis can be revised.
The Unit wishes to acknowledge the sponsorship of DSWT through KWS. Also recognized are the local community through community conservancies, non-governmental agents, the local KWS administrations and personnel who have been of great assistance to the work done during the month under review. God bless all.