Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit - March 2008

Activities for the reporting month started with ear-notching of 25 more black rhinos this time in Nairobi National Park after a similar operation last month at Ngulia Sanctuary in Tsavo West national Park

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Activities for the reporting month started with ear-notching of 25 more black rhinos this time in Nairobi National Park after a similar operation last month at Ngulia Sanctuary in Tsavo West national Park. As reported in February, the reason for ear-notching black rhinos countrywide is to assist in monitoring and identification. Previously, identification features used included the horns, territory, age, sex and physical deformities among others, which were not always accurate. With the introduction of ear-notching, identification and tracking has become easier. Each rhino is marked using a different ear-notching pattern, enabling monitoring personnel to identify animals with accuracy. The sightings are recorded and any animal that has not been sighted for a period is placed on the critical sighting or warning list.

Clinical interventions were few and included treatment of three waterbucks with snares at Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary. The snares in two adult females were loose around the neck without any injury having been inflicted.

However in the third which was a young female, the snare on the lower part of the hind leg was very tight and had inflicted a very deep injury. With the treatment however, it will recover and resume full use of the leg. The wound was cleaned and treated topically and systemic antibiotics administered.

The other clinical case was at Satao in Tsavo East, this time a seven year old male elephant. It was reported to us as limping but the cause could not be established. We could also not establish the cause from a distance because of terrain and thick vegetation cover which could not allow approach to within a good distance for observation. We therefore decided to immobilise it for further examination, diagnosis and treatment. Darting was done on foot because of reasons stated above (bad terrain and thick vegetation cover). Examination after immobilisation revealed a swollen and stiff right fetlock joint but there was no external opening. The animal might have sustained an injury long time ago which healed abnormally. As it walks it is able to bear weight on the leg and there are no signs of pain.

This is a condition which it will be able to cope up with for the rest of its life but with a marked degree of lameness. We also noted that the tip of the trunk was missing having been severed by a snare but the resulting injury was completely healed. The animal was revived after administration of an antibiotic.

Last month we reported about a vervet monkey at Amboseli with facial lesions and poor health which could not be established whether they were as a result of an injury or an infectious condition; there were suggestions that it could be Treponemal disease which has been reported in baboons. The disease is characterised by decay of facial tissues. We consequently invited primate experts from the Institute of Primate Research (IPR) to assist in further investigation of the case. Unfortunately when the team went to the ground in early part of this month, the patient was not located for several days and assumptions were that it might have died. All other primates in the vicinity were in good health. We will be informed promptly should any other animal manifest similar lesions in future.

Recent reports from Amboseli also say that the elephant with the spear injury treated for the third time last month is now fully recovered and has resumed full use of the leg.  However the elephant carrying two spear on the head reported in February at Kimana sanctuary has not been located to date.  The Elephant Research team is still trying to establish the outcome.

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