Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit - June 2013

Introduction In the month of June the unit witnessed a busy schedule with several cases of injured elephants being attended to especially with arrow wound injuries in elephant bulls


In the month of June the unit witnessed a busy schedule with several cases of injured elephants being attended to especially with arrow wound injuries in elephant bulls. Cases handled included several arrow wounds injuries in elephants within Tsavo East national park, snared elephant in Shimba hills national reserve and Elephant Herpes Virus surveillance within Tsavo conservation area. Other notable cases included post mortem of a lion carcass and rescue of an injured elephant calf in olbili area of Tsavo west. Cases are expected to increase as the dry spell continues to bite. Treatment of an injured elephant in Dakota area of Tsavo east, 2nd June. The huge elephant bull was reported injured by a team from Dakota base camp. The injured bull with two arrow wounds was immobilized using 18 mgs of etorphine. It went down in 5 minutes. The suspected arrow wound on the right rear leg and hip were cleaned using water mixed with hydrogen peroxide and later doused with tincture of iodine. Dexamethasone and long acting antibiotics were injected parenterally. Green clay was used to cover the wounded sites. The elephant was again given a repeat treatment 27th June but the prognosis is poor due to joint involvement.

Desnaring of an elephant bull in Shimba hills national reserve, 4th June

Shimba hills national reserve is a coastal rain forest with many elephants inhabiting the area. A case of young snared elephant bull was reported in the reserve. The elephant was found dragging a small tree chained on the right front limp by a wire snare and moved with great pain. He was darted using 16 mgs of etorphine in a dan inject dart gun. The wire snare attached to the twig was set free and the wounds cleaned using water mixed with hydrogen peroxide and then splashed with iodine. Injections of long acting antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs were made. Prognosis is good.

Rescue of a zebra orphan within pipeline area, Tsavo east 6th June

The zebra foal was spotted stranded in a muddy water hole along the pipeline road within Tsavo east national Park. A team rushed into the muddy waterhole to retrieve the half way submerged foal but found it already dead. The zebra suffocated after its nostrils were submerged in mud.

African swine fever surveillance in warthogs in Tsavo east.

African swine fever is a viral disease of pigs and warthogs caused by ASF virus. Surveillance on African Swine fever (ASF) was carried out in warthogs at Tsavo East NP. This is a collaborative study between KWS, KEMRI and ILRI. The objective is to establish the molecular epidemiology of ASF in free ranging warthogs of Tsavo conservation area. The warthogs were captured using a capture net after being driven by a vehicle, held down physically and sampled. Blood, tissue and tick samples collected for the study. A total of 14 warthogs were sampled within the areas of Bachuma water hole, ndara, Aruba and Dida harea areas. Blood was aliquoted and stored in liquid nitrogen while ticks and tissues were preserved in 70% alcohol.

Examination and euthanasia of an injured elephant bull along the railway line near maungu, Tsavo east, 20th June.

An elephant bull reportedly hit by a train was visited and found lying next to the railway line unable to stand up and struggling with great pain. Injuries were observed in the right hind leg and above the tail. The leg was examined and found to have complete fracture of femur and had a poor chances of healing. The elephant was euthanized and tusks removed and handed over to the security teams in the area. Cases of elephants being knocked down by trains continue to occur along Mombasa- Nairobi rail line that passes through the two Tsavo national parks.

Treatment of an injured elephant in Lualenyi ranch, 25th June

An elephant bull reported lame between Kutima and lualenyi ranch was visited and found struggling to walk near a water hole. The mid aged bull was immobilized using 16 mgs of etorphine and went down in 6 minutes. He was rolled over by use of ropes tied on the vet unit vehicle. The left hind limb that appeared lame was examined and diagnosed to have a sprain at the knee joint making movement a painful experience. Long acting antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs were administered and the elephant revived using diprenorphine at 3 times the etorphine dose. He was assisted to stand up after it was unable to stand and a guarded prognosis given.

Autopsy of a lioness carcass found dead within Rhino range, Tsavo east, 26th June.

A thin lioness spotted near a water hole near sobo area of Tsavo east national park was visited and found already dead. The carcass was taken to the vet labs in voi and an autopsy carried out. The body condition put at a scale of 1/5 was so thin the skeletal system was pronounced. Internal injuries with haemorrhages pointed to possible elephant attack and starvation due to old age. Tissue, tick and internal parasite samples were taken and preserved for further analysis.

Treatment of an elephant bull with an arrow wound and repeat treatment of another bull near Dakota, Tsavo east, 27th June.

Dakota and Satao areas in southern Tsavo east are areas inhabited by elephant bulls with huge tusks. The elephants continue to be targeted by poachers for the trophies. The elephant bull was immobilized using 18 mgs of etorphine and had to be rolled over after it fell on the injured flank. A huge gaping hole on the left abdomen was cleaned using water mixed with hydrogen peroxide and a final coat of iodine splashed. Painkillers and antibiotics were also injected. Reversal was done using diprenorphine at 3 times the etorphine dose. Prognosis given was good.

Shortly thereafter a repeat treatment was also undertaken on a bull previously treated in the month for hind limb joint injury.

Continuation of Elephant herpes virus surveillance (EEHV) in Tsavo conservation area.

Elephant endotheliotrophic herpes virus surveillance continued after it was started last year with interesting initial results. The virus is known to cause disease in Asian elephants but minimal self limiting infection in African species. The surveillance targeted elephants with nodular growths in their trunks. Tissue and blood samples were collected for lab analysis. A few zebras and grants gazelle were also sampled for antigenic comparison. A total of 21 samples were taken.

Treatment of an elephant bull with an arrow injury near Bachuma water hole, Tsavo east, 28th June.

An elephant bull was reported by tourists near Bachuma water hole with an arrow head protruding by the body side. He was swiftly spotted and immobilized using 18 mgs of etorphine propelled from a dan inject dart system. A sharp arrow head was pulled out of the right abdominal side, wounds cleaned with hydrogen peroxide/water mixture, iodine applied and covered in green clay. Long acting antibiotics and dexamethasone was also injected. Prognosis is good.

Treatment and rescue of a snared elephant calf in Olbili area of Chyulu hills, 29th June.

An elephant calf spotted in great pain with a possible leg fracture was reported to be harassing residents near olbili village on the western slope of Chyulu hills. The vet was flown in and found the three elephants still in the area. The mother was first to be immobilized with 16 mgs of etorphine as it was aggressive. The badly lame calf was immobilized using 4 mgs of etorphine. A deep snare had cut the right front limb near the fetlock joint to the bone. The snare was cut loose and the septic wound washed and iodine applied. Dexamethasone and long acting amoxicillin was injected. The calf was revived first then followed by the mother. The cow woke up and ran away leaving the calf behind, several attempts were made to reunite the two in vain. The mother disappeared towards Chyulu hills. The calf was sedated using azaperone 60 mgs and transported to Voi elephant orphanage where it found a new home.

Other cases responded to.

A snared elephant bull sited near Kaluku DSWT field headquarters was tracked and despite several darting attempts it was unsuccessful. Thick bushes and shy animals made the task very difficult. Follow up is still on. Another case reported near kasigau gate was found to be healthy and close monitoring was advised. A giraffe holed up inside Kenya broadcasting corporation (KBC) compound near Ngutuni sanctuary without water since December 12 was finally pushed out of the enclosure and into the park by the vet team.

Conclusion and acknowledgement

The area is expected to continue to witness high number of cases as we head towards the driest months of the year. The unit acknowledges the support of its sponsors ViER PFOTEN through the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DWST) for their financial and logistical support and not forgetting the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).

Report by: Dr Jeremiah Poghon