Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit - September 2013

Introduction The Month of September witnessed a welcome decrease in veterinary interventions within the Tsavo ecosystem


The Month of September witnessed a welcome decrease in veterinary interventions within the Tsavo ecosystem. This was attributed to enhanced security patrols in areas previously reporting most cases.

Cases handled during this month included the rescue of elephant orphans and the treatment of an elephant with an arrow wound. Some wildlife cases treated in previous monthssadly succumbed to their injuries during this reporting period so autopsieswere carried out.

Autopsy of an elephant calf that died of a central nervous system problem, 2nd September

An elephant calf rescuedlast month started developing nervous signs of unilateral blindness, circling, regurgitation and weakness in one side of the body. Despite treatment for meningo-encephalitis there was no change or improvement. Sadly the calf succumbed on the night of 1st September 2013. An autopsy was done the next day and revealed no pathognomonic changes that are indicative of the infection.

Treatment of an elephant cow with a bullet injury, 10th September

A case of an injured elephant calf was spotted near Taita Sisal Estate along the Mgeno boundary.  The mother was moving very slowly and was followed closely by her calf. Both the mother and the calf had to be immobilized in order to carry on treatment of the adult female. They were both kept cool with water. The small penetrating injury on the right shoulder was diagnosed as being caused by a bullet wound. The wound was cleaned and on deep probing small bone fragments confirmed the diagnosis of a bullet injury.  Treatment of both local and general was given and both the calf and the mother were woken up simultaneously. Prognosis of the case was put at 30% which is very poor.  Both her and her calf are being monitored closely 

Treatment of an injured elephant cow at Mgeno ranch, 15th Sept

Both Mgeno and Taita Ranches continue to attract many elephant herds due to water and forage availability. An elephant cow was seen with a wound on the back near the spine. She was immobilised alone using 16mgs of etorphinewith adan inject system and her two calves were kept at bay by the rangers. A large infected wound, which was suspected to be inflicted by an arrow, was cleaned, disinfected and both antibiotics and anti-inflammatories were administered. She was declared out of danger and revived before being reunited with her family shortly afterwards. Prognosis is good and complete recovery expected.

Rescue of an elephant calf at Rukinga Ranch, 17th  Sept

A stranded calf was rescued after being found wandering alone in the Rukinga area of Taita ranches. A team from the vet unit joined forces with the DSWT stockade team and rangers from Wildlife Works to successfully rescue the calf, which was airlifted shortly after from the Rukinga airstrip. Rescues of elephant calves continue to increase in the region due to the dry spell being experienced and the struggle for vegetation and water.

Examination of a sickelephant bull in Amboseli, 18th September

A sickly looking elephant bull was seen near the Amboseli swamps walking sluggishly and with signs of pain. The elephant was visited and examined revealing a non-specific condition which didn’t warrant intervention. Immobilization of elephants is a stressful exercise that might worsen the current condition.

Close monitoring has been advised. 

Examination and euthanasia of an injured elephant cow, 22nd  September

This elephant was previously treated on 10th September and was sadly given a poor prognosis. She was located later on 22nd September recumbent with her calf standing beside her waiting for herto wake up. Close examination revealed a non-treatable internal injury caused by a bullet wound. The decision was made to euthanize her and rescue the calf who was airlifted to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) for care and eventual release back into Tsavo National Park where she belongs.

Rescue of 2 elephant calves near Bachuma gate and pipeline area, Tsavo East 25th Sept

Two elephant calves were reported to be in need of rescue within a day of each other. One was rescued on the evening of 25th September atBachuma gate and one on the morning of the 26th at the pipeline. Both calves were very young and less than three months of age. The first calf was spotted by a KWS security team near the Nairobi-Mombasa road following people and vehicles, whilst the pipeline calf was found nearly submerged in mud. Both were rescued and airlifted to Nairobi elephant orphanage for care and rehabilitation. 

Conclusion & Acknowledgement

The Tsavo ecosystem has thankfully begun to receive some showers and pressure is beginning to lessen for wildlife in regards to accessing vegetation and water.  The case load is also expected to decrease due to reduced human/wildlife conflict and poaching incidences caused by enhanced security. The unit will continue to respond immediately to all cases reported.

We would like to thank our sponsors ViER PFOTEN through the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) for their support towards the unit. We also want to recognize the support of the Kenya Wildlife Service in its steadfast vision of securing Kenya’s wildlife heritage.

Report by:- Dr Jeremiah Poghon