Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit - October 2010

The month of October realized very low and in other areas completely no rains against expectation of short rains that usually begin during this time

The month of October realized very low and in other areas completely no rains against expectation of short rains that usually begin during this time. Lack of forage and water kept most wild animals outside the parks and even those within the park their body condition score was very low. Operations of the unit shifted slightly to rescue of elephants that were trapped in muddy water holes and sewerage tanks while looking for the ever dwindling water resources as the drought continue bite.

Elephant were rescued in Kinango area, Ngulia lodge in Tsavo west and Wananchi Ranch adjacent to Tsavo west National Park.

Other cases involved rescue, rehabilitation of an injured lion at Kuku Ranch, Fitting of transmitters to Rhinos in Tsavo East National Park and euthanasia of a zebra with a fracture.


Reports were received from Voi radio room of an elephant stranded in a water hole while searching for water, the vet team together with assistance from rangers arrived in the area that evening. The male elephant was seen struggling to climb out of the water hole in vain.

Operation Elephant out!

The muddy water hole was very slippery and the elephants attempts all proved futile! Several attempts to pull it out using a land cruiser failed and the team finally resorted to the use of a truck!

Attempts to pull him out were frustrated by the tendency of the elephant holding onto the rope and equally pulling it towards the water hole!

After about twenty minutes of struggle he was finally pulled out to the relief of everyone who was participating.

He calmly removed the ropes from his body and happily ran off to the bushes!  He was out and with no injuries!!

Rhino ear notching, fitting of transmitters and dehorning 3rd -7th October.

Rhino census was carried out in Tsavo East National Park to ascertain the exact numbers and also to fit transmitters on Rhinos for better monitoring and surveillance.

The exercise undertaken by the unit with assistance from the capture and vet team from Nairobi took 5 days and a total of 7 rhinos were darted by use of helicopter darting and fitted with a transmitters. They were also dehorned to curb poaching.

Lion carcass at Aruba within Tsavo East National Park, 7th October.

After a report was made to the unit of a sick lion next to Aruba lodge, the vet team left hurriedly to inquire what was happening only to find the young male lion already dead and heavily decomposed.

An attempt to collect samples was not successful as the some parts were already devoured by hyenas.  The carcass condition was good and high rate of decomposition and the good body condition suggested a suspected case of poisoning.

Treatment of injured lion with suspected spear wound 7th October.

This is a case reported from Iltilal area of kuku Ranch adjacent to Tsavo West National Park where a male adult lion was seen in a under a tree unable to move even after some disturbance. 

Immobilization and treatment

Ketamine and xylazine combination was used in the chemical restraint of the lion and a hand injection top up was used to achieve the desired level of anesthesia.

A collar fitted with a transmitter was removed because it was too tight and further physical exam revealed penetrating wounds resembling fight wounds were observed below the ear.

Antibiotic and dexamethasone were administered before he was loaded in to a cage for a journey to Komboyo park headquarters for further medical attention. 

The lion responded well to treatment and was finally released back to the wild on 20th October 2010 in good health.

Zebra with Fracture with in Manyani gate area of Tsavo East National, 16th October.

Immobilization and examination

Immobilization was done using 6 mgs etorphine and 50 mgs xylazine.

Physical exam revealed a complete fracture of the tarsal bone on the left hind limb. Many of this fractures don’t heal and the animal is usually left near watering holes by others who move away to forage.

Euthanasia was done to alleviate further suffering the prognosis was very poor. Put to sleep using euthatol rapid intravenous injection.

Rescue of an elephant from a sewerage tank at Ngulia lodge within Tsavo West National Park, 19th October.

Another case of an elephant falling into a waste water tank happened in Ngulia in which search of water continue to lead animals into a 2 day trap.

The vet team rushed in from its base in Tsavo East to find the elephant struggling to free itself! Every effort he put in drained him of more energy.

Rescue Exercise

The lower side of the tank was dug manually due to lack of machinery at the venue and the soil pushed into the muddy/oily effluent in the hole.

After digging for close to two hours the elephants were assisted out by use of a rope tied to a land cruiser.

The elephant seemed happy to be rescued from the terrifying ordeal and jumped happily to a nearby herd.

Nb: Ngulia lodge management should be compelled to cover sewerage tanks outside the lodge.

Treatment of injured male elephant in Satao camp, 20th October.

Satao camp is one of the areas providing water to the big elephant population in Tsavo East National Park.

This male adult elephant was seen dragging its feet slowly and kept within the water hole for days.It was easy to spot him due to dragging its feet on the ground.

Immobilization and Treatment

Immobilized using Etorphine delivered using of dan nject dart gun.

A penetrating wound with a lot of pus was seen on the lateral aspect of the left front limb. The skin incision was enlarged, pus drained out and the area splashed with hydrogen peroxide and iodine untill it was clear.

Oxytetracycline spray was applied and a final coat of green clay used to cover the wound.

Parenteral long acting amoxicillin was administered as the last shot. 


Revived with diprenorphine with no difficulties waking up!

Prognosis- Good

Elephant rescue at wananchi Ranch near Tsavo West National Park,

This was a case where three elephants got stuck in a muddy water hole after an attempted mud bath! Three elephants, a mother and two calves, one suspected not hers were squeezed in a small muddy hole causing death of one calf by the time the vet team arrived in the area.

The team arrived at night and with assistance of the capture team managed to remove the calf first then followed by the mother.

The carcass of the other calf was quickly decomposing emitting a strong smell.

The adult elephant had to be assisted to stand up due to exhaustion and it took the team about 30 minutes to ensure she was safely up.

Other activities Included:-

-Autopsy carried out on a leopard and a cheetah knocked down along the roads from Tsavo west and Tsavo East Ntional Parks respectively.

-Treatment of security dogs from Tsavo west and Tsavo east wildlife protection department.


With the onset of rains in the month of October, injuries to wild animals are expected to go down and a calm festive season is expected.

The unit wishes to thank its sponsor Vier Pfoten through The David Sheldricks Wildlife Trust for its critical support to the unit.

We also appreciate the immense support of Kenya Wildlife Service for its contributions, may God bless you all.

Report: by Dr Jeremiah Poghon

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