Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit - April 2005

Activities for April started in earnest on 1st with a stock raiding lioness that was trapped at KARI farm next to Rukinga and Taita ranches and was to be released into Tsavo East

Activities for April started in earnest on 1st with a stock raiding lioness that was trapped at KARI farm next to Rukinga and Taita ranches and was to be released into Tsavo East. However, it had sustained injuries- some serious- as it was attempting to escape from the trap. We were requested to examine and treat these injuries before release. Treatment was done successfully. Physical examination also revealed worn out canines, a phenomenon that is attributed to advanced age.

On the 13th, we went to Kimana Sanctuary near Amboseli to remove a snare in an elephant calf about 2 months old. The calf was in an extended family of 23 which we were informed is always together and rarely splits into smaller family units. We were further informed that it is resident in the sanctuary and rarely ventures out, and is one of those being monitored by the Amboseli elephant research team. We easily located it along River Kimana that passes through the sanctuary. Our initial plans were to separate the mother and calf from the rest of the family, then dart the mother and capture the calf physically as it was too small to dart. But upon darting the mother, the rest of the family snatched away the calf and ran away with it into thick bushes.

We decided to dart it also after we realised that the rest of the family would not allow us to capture it physically. However, it remained sandwiched between the big females making it difficult to get a clear shot. It was not until after about half an hour of trying that we managed to place the dart upon which the family took off again. The calf went down in the bushes without our knowledge and was left behind as we continued to pursue the family. On realising this, we retraced the tracks but we couldn’t find it. After almost an hour of searching we thought we would not find it and decided to go back and revive the mother. We thereafter got more personnel and on foot in an extended formation, we followed the tracks once more. Luckily we found it under a bush still in a stable anaesthetic state. The snare was removed and some systemic antibiotic administered. We then loaded it into the vet truck and embarked to look for the mother and family. But they were nowhere to be found and darkness caught up with us still searching. We decided to keep it overnight and look for the family the following morning. It was given only water during the confinement.
By day break we were already out, leaving the calf behind and locate the family first. Our efforts were rewarded after about 3 hours of concerted efforts with the Amboseli elephant research team and the sanctuary management when we found the family in another bush about 5kms from where we did the operation. A vehicle was left behind to watch over it as we went back to fetch the calf, which was rejoined and accepted by the mother and family without any signs of rejection. So far the sanctuary management has reported that mother and calf are doing alright.

While looking for the above family, we encountered a 16-17 years old elephant bull with a spear wound on the left chest area. We promptly immobilised and treated it before we resumed back the search. The wound was heavily infected and required another round of cleaning and treatment as well as another dose of a systemic antibiotic. However, it had not been seen again at the time of preparing this report and the sanctuary management is still on the lookout.

And on the 16th, we received a report of a zebra with an injured leg near Manyani gate in Tsavo East. The injury Looked fresh and the leg was matted with clotted blood. It was however minor and because it was not interfering with movement and feeding and there was no foreign body, any intervention was considered to be unnecessary.

On the 25th, we were called to Bachuma in Tsavo East for a female buffalo with prolapsed vagina and cervix. Most of such cases occur in the last two months of gestation and advanced pregnancy accentuates the condition. Thrombosis, ulceration, necrosis and injury to the affected organ had already occurred. The resultant irritation was causing expulsive straining efforts. This would in turn have increased the degree of prolapse and infection leading to toxaemia, more severe straining, deterioration of body condition and even death. The management of the condition is intensive and entails among other things replacement and retention with strong nylon sutures, frequent doses of systemic antibiotics, and close observation for recurrence, and is not always successful like in the present case where there was excessive trauma which would have led to much irritation and infection with consequent vigorous straining that would dislodge the retaining sutures and the prolapse would recur.

The rectal temperature was elevated to 40oC and although this was not conclusive as the animal was lying in direct sunlight, when looked in conjunction with other signs observed like dehydration (recession of the eyeballs into the sockets and the skin subsiding slowly after being picked up into a fold), they could be indicative of onset of toxaemia. The animal could also not support itself to stand. The management of this case could not have been possible under field conditions lacking in holding facilities. The animal was euthanased with 20% Pentobarbitone Sodium.

The following day, the Amboseli Elephant Research reported a two months old elephant calf from the PC family whose mother had been poached in Tanzania for its long tusks. It had lost body condition and was observed trying to suckle its non lactating sisters and aunts. They called Nairobi to rescue and safe it from imminent death. Nairobi subsequently sent an aircraft to pick me in Voi for the operation. But unfortunately by the time we arrived, the family had retreated deep into an expansive swampy Sodom’s Apple bush completely inaccessible by whatever means. The only alternative was to wait for them to come out, which they did at 6.20pm when the aircraft had already gone back to Nairobi. We darted it at 6.21pm and loaded it into a pick up truck at 6.30pm. We held it overnight in a room at the park headquarters staff quarters and airlifted it to Nairobi the following morning. It however died two days after the rescue.

The last case this month was on the 29th in Amboseli of a family matriarch with a snare in the left hind leg. Though tight, the snare had not inflicted any injury and seemed just a few days old. The operation was carried out successfully.