Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit - November 2003



This is the first monthly report for the Tsavo mobile veterinary project. A total of nine cases were reported, seven of which were attended to while two were not located. Three of the cases attended to were snare cases; a lioness at Salt Lick lodge in Taita Wildlife Sanctuary, and a giraffe as well as an elephant at Buchuma gate within Tsavo East National Park. Two other cases were wounded animals; a buffalo and an elephant both near Voi Safari lodge. One case was suspected poisoning in a baboon while the last case was a dead elephant in Taita Ranch. The two that were not located were snare cases; a giraffe between Aruba and Sala gate within Tsavo East and an elephant calf at Taita Wildlife Sanctuary.

Lioness: This was the first case to be reported and the response was immediate. The lioness was easily located in the company of five other females and a male. The snare was around the neck. It was immobilised with ketamine and xylazine hydrochloride (both at 300mg) administered by the Dan-Inject CO2 propelled rifle. It went down after about 7 minutes. Once down, the other members of the pride were driven away to a safe distance. The snare was removed and the inflicted wound which was only superficial was treated topically. Long acting ampicillin (BetamoxR) was administered intramuscularly. The animal was revived with 35mg antisedan intramuscularly. (A report and photos were submitted earlier)

Baboon: The male baboon was sighted manifesting signs consistent with poisoning; vomiting diarrhea, persistent coughing and occasionally drifting into unconsciousness. It was immobilised with 20mg ketamine hydrochloride before being euthanased with Euthatal. It was thereafter buried to avoid dismembering and contamination of the environment by carrion eaters. (A report and photos were submitted earlier)

Giraffe: The giraffe carrying a cable wire snare around the neck was sighted 6km from Buchuma gate. It was in the company of a big herd. It was immobilised with 12mg M99 and 30mg xylazine hydrochloride using the Dan-Inject capture rifle. The animal was rather excited and its flight distance was long occasioning loss of two darts. The animal was maximally sedated after about 10 minutes and ready for roping down. Once down, the reversal agents; M5050 and Antisedan, were injected intravenously. The snare was removed and an antibiotic cover given. Unfortunately, the personnel were timid and inexperienced and it took longer than recommended to cast it down. This stressed the animal enormously and it succumbed to stress just when it was being assisted to stand up. (A report and photos were submitted earlier)

Buffalo: The buffalo had heavily infected wounds on the ramp possibly inflicted by lions. It was immobilised with M99 (7mg) and xylazine (30mg) using the Dan-Inject capture rifle. The wounds were treated topically and the animal given a long acting antibiotic cover. It was revived with M5050 (24mg) and Antisedan (10mg) both injected intravenously. (A report and photos were submitted earlier)

Snared Elephant at Buchuma gate: The elephant was sighted on the 25th near Mutondo Water point GPS S 03„a 38.985„S E 038„a 59.564„S, just outside the Southern boundary of Tsavo East National Park near Buchuma gate. The case was reported by the District Warden, Mr. Perio. The response was immediate and the elephant was sighted 200m from the water point. It was an adult bull with a cable snare on the lower left fore leg. It was immobilised with 17mg M99 mixed with 3000IU of hyaluronidase to fasten absorption, using the Palmer Capture rifle. The first dart composed of the same mixture did not get the target due to the long darting distance and the dart was not strong enough to penetrate the skin. The target went down on sternal recumbency in five minutes. It was immediately pulled down onto lateral recumbency to avoid respiratory complications which occurs because intestinal contents push onto the diaphragm and the animal is unable to breathe properly. Respiration was monitored to ensure that the animal was in stable anaesthetic state. The top ear pinna was folded to cover the upper eye in order to avoid visual stimulation and thus stress. The snare was removed and the inflicted wound cleaned thoroughly with hydrogen peroxide and water, and then infused with dilute solution of Lugol¡¦s Iodine.

An antibiotic cover of 20,000mg long acting oxytetracycline was also administered. During treatment, the animal was kept cool with copious amounts of water applied onto the ears. The animal was then revived with 70mg M5050 administered intravenously. It was up in 2 minutes. The prognosis for recovery is good.

Dead Elephant at Taita Ranch: On the 25th morning a follow up of a case in Taita Sanctuary which had been treated by a private vet while I was away in Nairobi was done. The elephant had what looked like a bullet wound on one of its fore legs and had been seen on 22nd, 5 days after treatment. Its condition had deteriorated and a repeat treatment was considered necessary. It was however not found. On the 28th the elephant was reported dead and I was called to do a post mortem. It was however in a very advanced stage of decomposition to do an autopsy. The cause of death could have been septicemia as I was made to understand that the wound was heavily infected.

Also reported on the 25th was an elephant with a rash on its hind legs and micturating (urinating) frequently at Luggards Falls within Tsavo East NP. Further information was sought to establish whether the condition was due to natural or man-made causes, because very little could be done if due to the former. No response was made to my radio message request.

Wounded elephant near Voi Safari Lodge: The case was reported on 30th and was responded to immediately. The target was located about 1Km south of the lodge. It was an adult bull browsing alone. It was limping and on close observation an extensive and infected wound was seen on the caudal aspect of the upper fore leg.

It was immobilised with 18mg M99 combined with 2000 IU of hyaluronidase. After darting, it ran for about 50m before slowing down. It went down in about 6 minutes. The wound was cleaned thoroughly and all pus and dead tissue were removed.
An antibiotic cover of long acting oxytetracycline was administered intramuscularly. Unfortunately for us, the elephant was lying on the dart and attempts to turn it to enable us remove the dart were unsuccessful. Because the respiratory rate was getting low (4 breaths/minute) and the breathing shallow, we revived the animal without further ado to avoid death due to respiratory insufficiency. The dart will however fall by itself within 3-4 days and should be no cause for alarm. The animal was revived with 60mg M5050 and was up in 2 minutes.

Statistics show that veterinary emergencies are normally low during this time of the year. This is attributed to rains in the Tsavos thus enough water and feed within the parks. The animals do not therefore wander outside the parks into community areas; thus reducing the incidences of human-wildlife conflicts. Cases are expected to increase in the months of January and February 2004.

The response so far to all cases reported has been perfect and within at most one hour. This is expected to be improved even further once reporting of cases has been streamlined and permanent rangers are attached to the unit. In some of the above cases, much time was lost looking for assistance. The AD Tsavo East however, appreciates this project very much and has pledged every support in this regard once the insufficiency of rangers in the park is addressed. I wish to sincerely thank him for his support, hospitality, generosity and enthusiasm in this first report. I am also deeply grateful to Mr. Isaac Maina for his support especially with photography. He has also been ready to provide me with his de-snaring rangers whenever a case is reported. I am looking forward to strengthening our working relationship even further. Last but not least, I most sincerely thank the research team for their tremendous support. It would have been extremely difficulty without their invaluable support this first month.