Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit Report for October 2018

Published on the 31st of October, 2018

The month of October was moderately busy with the majority of cases being due to attempted poaching and human-wildlife conflict. The area remains dry but with expected greening of the habitat after three days of unexpected rains in late October. Unlike last year cases of starvation and poor body condition in the iconic Tsavo elephants hasn’t been observed so far.

Cases attended this month included treatment of an elephant cow with a spear lodged in the head near Finch Hattons Lodge, Tsavo West, treatment of an injured elephant bull at Ithumba in northern Tsavo East and rescue of an elephant cow stuck in the mud in the Galana River in Tsavo East. Other cases were the examination and euthanasia of a lion cub and desnaring of a waterbuck near Ngutuni Conservancy in Tsavo East National Park, the team conducted an autopsy on a lioness suspected of being poisoned in Sarova Taita Hills Conservancy and a vervet monkey treated for abdominal puncture wounds in Tsavo East Park Headquarters at Voi.


Date: 3rd October 2018

Species: Loxodanta Africana (African Elephant)

Sex: Female

Age: Adult

Location: Finch Hattons lodge, Tsavo West.

History: A report of an injured elephant cow with a spear stuck in her head was received from the senior Warden of Tsavo West National Park. The team got ready and drove to the area, which is more than 100kms away from Voi. On arrival at Finch Hattons Lodge, the lodge staff that saw the elephant led the vet team to the area. The elephant was searched for and later found deep in a forested swampy area in a herd of about 15 other elephants.

Immobilization, examination and treatment: The darting equipment and drugs were prepared containing 16 mgs of M99 in a 1.5 cc dart barrel. The elephant cow was approached using a vehicle and darted with 16 mgs of Etorphine propelled by a dan inject dart system but the dart hit her ear and the elephants scattered deep into the bush.

The team requested the support of a helicopter from the KWS Air Wing and another dart containing 16 mgs of M99 was prepared. She was darted, separated from the herd by chopper to a clearing where she went down after 10 minutes. The trunk and the ear were positioned correctly to aid in breathing and temperature control respectively. The elephant had a deep penetrating spear stuck on the frontal bones with bleeding. The spear was pulled out, more than 30cms of it was stuck in the elephant’s skull but luckily it had not damaged any of the vital organs in the skull.

Once the spear was removed, the wound was cleaned with water mixed with Hydrogen Peroxide, then doused with Tincture of Iodine, sprayed with Oxytetracycline topical wound spray and finally covered with green clay. Long acting antibiotics were administered intramuscularly and Dexamethasone Hcl was administered intravenously through the ear.

Reversal and Prognosis: The anaesthesia was reversed by administration of Diprenorphine Hcl through the ear veins and the elephant stood up and walked away slowly. Prognosis is good as no vital organs were damaged.


Date: 4th October 2018

Animal: African Elephant

Species: Loxodanta africana

Sex: Male

Age: Adult

Location: Ithumba, Tsavo East

History: Reports of an injured and lame elephant bull with a suspected arrow wound were received from the DSWT team based at Ithumba Reintegration Unit after the bull came to take water at the stockade watering hole. The team kept an eye on the bull as the DSWT aeroplane collected the vet from Voi. On arrival at the Ithumba Reintegration Unit, the bull had moved away from the water hole but the desnaring teams kept a close eye on him.

Immobilization, examination and treatment: The darting equipment was prepared containing 18 mgs of Etorphine Hcl in a Dan inject dart system. The bull was approached on foot and darted on the rump; the team proceeded to follow him slowly on foot. He went down not far from where he was darted but unfortunately fell on the injured side of the body. The trunk was well positioned for proper respiration and water poured on his ears to cool him down. A tractor was called in as the teams cleared the area around the animal.

Ropes were tied onto a tractor and the elephant was rolled over. There was a deep penetrating wound on the left armpit area going deep between the scapula blade and ribcage area. The wound was more than 40 CM deep and fresh.

The wound was cleaned using water mixed with Hydrogen Peroxide, then doused with Tincture of Iodine and sprayed with Oxytetetracycline antibiotic spray. Green clay was used to cover the wound. 200CC of long acting antibiotics and 50 cc of Dexamethasone were administered intramuscularly.

Reversal and prognosis: Anaesthesia was reversed by use of Diprenorphine at 3 times the Etorphine dose. Prognosis is guarded.


Date: 6th October 2018

Species: Lion

Sex: Male

Age: 1 year old

Location: Ngutuni, Tsavo East National Park.

History: A report was received from the manager of Ngutuni Lodge of which is adjacent to Tsavo East National Park that a Lion cub had been observed injured near the lodge and unable to walk. Visual examination of the cub revealed multiple wounds on the body and paralysis of the hind limbs. Immobilization drugs and equipment were prepared.

Immobilisation, examination and management: Drugs were prepared containing 50 mgs of Ketamine and 0.5 mgs Meditomidine mixed in a 1.5 cc dan inject dart. The about 7 month old cub was darted and fully immobilized after 5 minutes. Detailed examination revealed multiple puncture and laceration wounds mainly on the rear legs, back and pelvic area with lumbo-sacral vertebrae affected leading to paralysis of the hind limbs. Prognosis of the young lion recovering from the wounds was poor and as a result he was put down using Euthanaze (20% pentobarbitone sodium) administered through the radial vein. Cause of the injury is a suspected Buffalo attack.


Date: 12th October 2018

Species: Waterbuck

Sex: Female

Age: Adult

Location: Ngutuni, Tsavo East National Park.

History: The report was made by KWS rangers who patrol the area of Tsavo East National Park between Voi and Bachuma Gate of a waterbuck with a wire snare around the neck in Ndara plains. The vet team rushed in to find several waterbucks near a water hole with the snared waterbuck among them.

Immobilization and treatment: The waterbuck was immobilized using 6 mgs of Etorphine Hcl mixed with 40 mgs of Xylazine Hcl all filled into a 1.5 cc dan inject dart barrel. She was approached in a vehicle and darted on the rump. She ran away briefly and went down. The wire snare around her neck was removed and the dart wound was treated with Opticlox and Oxytetracycline spray.

Reversal and prognosis: Anaesthesia was reversed using 18 mgs Diprenorphine mixed with 0.5 cc of Antisedan given through the jugular vein. The waterbuck rose and joined the others who were waiting nearby.

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Date: 13th October 2018

Species: 1 lioness

Sex: Female

Age: Adult

Place: Sarova Taita hills wildlife sanctuary, Tsavo

History: A report was made by a tour operator of the death of a known Lioness within Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary, with suspected poisoning as the cause of death. The vet unit visited the area to ascertain the cause of death.

General examination and autopsy: The carcass was in mid-state of decomposition with bloating and swelling. The carcass was intact and aged at about 2 days from the day it died. The lioness’ tongue was protruding out with anal rectal prolapsed. A partly eaten bovine carcass was about 200 metres away from the lioness carcass. Putrefaction had set in, and no external wounds were observed. On skinning the sub cutis and skeletal muscles were normal.

Thoracic cavity, lungs were highly decomposed, the heart epicardium was normal with haemorrhages on the endocardium, including valves. Upon examination of the gastrointestinal tract, fresh flesh seen on the stomach with some ecchymotic haemorrhages on mucosa. The intestines were mainly empty and normal. Liver was in decomposed hence no pathological changes were observed. Kidneys were decomposed and not much was observed. The spleen was enlarged due to putrefaction. No pathology observed.

Significant findings: Sudden death, haemorrhages and partly eaten bovine carcass nearby.

Tentative cause of death: Poisoning by bovine carcass laced with poisonous substance. Samples were collected to be submitted to the laboratory for toxicological testing: Stomach contents (Lioness)Liver portions (Lioness)Blood samples (Lioness)Pieces of meat (Bovine carcass)


Date: 15th October 2018

Species: Vervet Monkey

Sex: Male

Age: Sub-adult

Location: Park HQ, Tsavo East National Park.

History, examination and treatment: The sub-adult male vervet monkey was observed near Tsavo East Park Headquarters weak and always drinking water. He was captured and brought to the unit clinic for examination and treatment. Examination revealed puncture of the abdominal area leaking of peritoneal fluid caused by suspected fight with a bigger male vervet.

The abdominal wounds were sutured with two layers of absorbable and non absorbable suture and bandaged. Long acting antibiotics and Dexamethasone Hcl were administered intramuscularly and the monkey fed on some dextrose solution. Some recovery was seen but unfortunately he died the next day.


Date: 24th October 2018

Animal: African Elephant

Species: Loxodanta africana

Sex: Female

Age: Adult

Location: Ithumba, Tsavo East

History: It was reported by tour operators that an elephant cow was stuck in a muddy section of Galana River and couldn’t free herself. The vet team rushed to the area to find the poor cow in a muddy death trap.

Rescue: The elephant cow was in a deep river bed lying flat on her right flank and halfway covered with sticky mud. Long ropes were looped around the Elephant cow and tied on the vet vehicle for support, then used to pull the elephant out of the mud. She was cleaned with water and administered with Dexamethasone and long acting antibiotics then assisted onto her feet. She stood up and walked away shortly before chasing after the vet vehicle.

Prognosis: Prognosis given was good as soon thereafter there was some downpour in the area.


The unit examined several wildlife trophies/parts brought in from Malindi and testified in Lamu court where offenders were charged with being in possession of wildlife trophies.


Report by KWS Vet Dr Poghon. The unit acknowledges the support of its sponsors ViER PFOTEN through the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) for their immense financial contribution to the unit. We also thank Kenya Wildlife Service through the Assistant Director Tsavo conservation area and the head, veterinary and capture servicesdepartment for their support.