The Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit - October 2012

Introduction The month of October remained dry with drastic reduction in surface water and forage


The month of October remained dry with drastic reduction in surface water and forage. Most wildlife were forced to travel for long distances in search of food and again back to the few watering holes provided by hotels and windmills that still flowed. Most wildlife recorded poor body condition with cases of Elephant calf deaths and others too weak to stand. Cases of poaching by use of gun shots shot up sharply during the month. Rains are expected soon, failure of which drought related wildlife deaths are expected to increase. Notable among the cases is an elephant that survived poaching with deep cuts in the skull and one eye gorged out.

Treatment of injured Elephant bull in Ithumba, Tsavo East, 8th October

Ithumba in the Northern tip of Tsavo East is a refuge area for huge Elephant bulls that are targeted for their long tusks by use of poisoned arrows. The apparently lonely Elephant was spotted by The Sheldricks Trust pilot looking sickly and isolated from the rest. An attempt to immobilize was made difficult by the thick bushes and rough terrain in the area. Darting was done using 18 mgs of etorphine alone from foot position and the Elephant ran away and fell 500 meters away, falling on the injured side. About four wounds were treated and the elephant rolled over to expose the side with a bigger wound. Two arrow heads were retrieved from the purulent wounds, cleaned with hydrogen peroxide and iodine. Antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs were administered. Prognosis The case is expected to heal to normality within a month.

Examination of a calf death and treatment of an injured Elephant at Satao, Tsavo East, 9th October.

Satao tented camp being the last water point Eastwards towards Galana river receives alot of Elephants during the dry season. Having to travel tens of kilometers, young calves usually succumb barely meters from the water hole.A calf that died just a short distance from the water hole was checked and a diagnosis of starvation/ separation from the mother was made.

Many adult bulls with huge tusks find their way to this watering hole bearing injuries. The bull was observed with a wound on the abdomen. Darting was done using 18 mgs of etorphine alone. A tractor had to be used to roll him over after it fell on the injured side. The arrow like wounds were washed clean with antimicrobials and antibiotics administered. Prognosis- Good

Immobilization and euthanasia of two Elephants that survived poaching in Taita ranch, 14th October. After a report of an elephant that survived poaching is Taita ranch said to be in great pain with one eye gorged out and with deep axe wounds on the skull, a clear sign of tusk removal. After several hours of attempted foot darting, he was finally darted at tank one area while trying to drink. Examination revealed deep penetrating wounds on the base of the trunk deep into the nasal sinuses and the left eye gorged out. With no feasibility of recovery, the elephant was euthanised to end her suffering. The second male adult elephant that was too weak to stand up was also euthanised.

Veterinary management of three Elephants in Rukinga and Taita ranches, 15th October.

The three elephants, one a young female with a tight wire snare around the neck, the second a pregnant female that was unable to stand up and a recumbent calf were attended to the same day. The young female that was unable to wake up near a water tank was immobilized by hand injection of etorphine and a tight snare that cut deep into throat exposing the trachea. After full treatment attempts to revive and pull her into her feet did not bore fruit and she was finally euthanized.

The second case of a pregnant female was pulled to her feet and was able to walk well away with slight lameness thought to be from muscle crumps. A calf that was recumbent was euthanized after several attempts to pull her up proved futile, cause of weakness was drought related.
A jackal that presented with mange/flea bite dermatitis was not attended to due to the Elephant emergencies but a follow-up is being done.

Treatment of a speared Elephant bull at Amboseli, 19th Oct. The community around Amboseli has been hostile towards wildlife of recent and cases of elephants of spearing are thought to be caused by the hostility. This huge bull was spotted by Elephant trust with several wounds on the body and neck oozing pus. He was darted using 18 mgs of etorphine and went into sternal recumbency in 5 minutes, after being pulled over deep wounds in the neck, abdominal area, perineal area and the flank. The wounds were cleaned with hydrogen peroxide, doused with iodine and a final coat of green clay applied. Another huge tusker with a spear wound on the trunk was not attended to as it was in musth. Prognosis- wounds are expected to heal.

Examination and euthanasia of a recumbent Elephant in Taita wildlife sanctuary, 21st October.

The elephant was found beside the road lying down near Sarova wildlife sanctuary, attempts to assist her onto the feet were unsuccessful. Physical exam came up with a diagnosis of starvation and loss of body condition. She was finally euthanized to end its suffering. There were no physical injuries observed in the young Elephant and a diagnosis of starvation was made.

Desnaring of an Waterebuck at Kanderi swamp, Tsavo East, 22nd October.

The area near park headquarters that forms part of the Park boundary is notorious with snaring of antelopes. The Waterbuck was sited pulling a long wire snare near Kanderi swamp. Darting was done using 6 mgs of etorphine and 50 mgs xylazine. The wire snare was removed and with no bodily injuries, the animal was declared free from danger she was revived using diprenorphine at three times the etorphine dose mixed with antisedan.

Cases of two Elephants that survived poaching in Rukinga Ranch, 29th October.

Elephants are also facing a lot of pressure from organised criminals that use sophisticated arms in poaching. These are cases of two sub-adult females that survived poaching with serious injuries that necessitated euthanasia to end their suffering. The first elephant found near the scene of shooting was recumbent and could not stand, arrow wounds were seen in the pelvic area.

The second managed to walk about one kilometre away with fractured right rear limb. Both were immobilized using 10 mgs etorphine and thereafter euthanized. Autopsy of the second elephant with limb fracture retrieved a bullet head that shattered the right femur causing massive bleeding and swelling.

Desnaring of a young Elephant chained to a tree in Lualenyi Ranch, 30th October.

With not enough energy to free itself from a snare, the about 4 year old calf was guarded by its mother and two other family members while chained on a tree by a copper wire snare. Because it was late, the family members were chased away and the snare cut from the safety of a vehicle. The elephant was declared in good health with no snare wounds.

Acknowledgements The Tsavo Mobile Vet Unit (TMVU) will like to sincerely thank its Sponsors who have continued to fund the activities of the unit since its inception, ViER PFOTEN through the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) and not forgetting The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).

Report by: Dr Jeremiah Poghon

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