On the morning of Friday Jan 11 the DSWT received a call from Stephen, a camp guide in Ziwani, Tsavo West National Park. He had been monitoring a large bull elephant for a few weeks that had stayed close to the camp and had become known to the camp staff. In the weeks he had been around they had watched him slowly deteriorate as a result of his spear wound injuries and so Stephen had decided to be as proactive as he possibly could in order to save this beautiful elephants life.
From the Nairobi Head quarters DSWT managed to negotiate a favorable rate from Boskavic Air Charters to charter a plane to fly the Kenya Wildlife Service Vet Team from Nairobi headquarters down to the scene, a 1 hour flight in a Cessna 206. Dr. Poghon and our DSWTs Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit remain on leave until the 15th of January.
The team dispatched from Nairobi met up the the DSWT Tsavo Pilot at a remote airfield at the foot of Mt Kilimanjaro, near the Tanzanian border. With the generous support of a group of helpers and a vehicle from the local Voyager Tourist camp, the team headed off in search of the injured bull elephant, which had not moved far since that morning.
A quick assessment of his size and the extent of his wounds was made by the Kenya Wildlife Service vet, who prepared the dart and darted the bull from the safely of the vehicle. Within 7 minutes after being darted he began to stumble and finally fell on to his side.
The team moved in quickly to help him. A twig was placed in his trunk to ensure the airways remained open and water poured over his ears to keep him cool throughout the treatment.
The vet worked fast with much help from everyone, even the Boskies charter pilot ensured he too was involved. A small hole in the left leg indicated an arrow wound, but there was nothing found deeper inside. On the top of his neck the big bull had a severe gash, and two more on his shoulder, most likely spear wounds from a vertical attack.
The mid afternoon sun was beating down, and water was copiously poured onto his ears in order to cool him down. His wounds were cleaned, antibiotics administered and green clay applied.
Once the neutralizing drug was administered to a vein in the ear the big bull began to stir, amid great excitement from the team looking on. He tried to rise two, three four times, but finally lay exhausted. The vet was understandably worried, as an elephant this size should not remain prone for too long. With the enthusiasm of the team, a large rope and the camp vehicle, the big elephant was assisted to his feet. He then stood contemplating what had happened to him as his helpers looked on all smiling and laughing and so happy to see him back on his feet. Slowly he moved off and began to feed.
For everyone who was involved in the privilege of saving this elephant yesterday it was wonderful to watch, knowing they had made a significant difference on this day. The camp staff who have got to know this bull well have assured us they will keep a daily watch over him as it is likely he will need follow up treatment in a few weeks time. Until then he will stay near the camp that has come to his aid, and the DSWT aircraft will monitor his progress from the air.
DSWT would like to thank everyone who assisted us in yesterdays operation. To Stephen, the Ziwani guide, for making that important phone call. KWS's veterinary team for their vital treatment, DSWT's Aerial Unit Team who assisted on the ground, Boskavic Air Charters for their offer of a flight at a favorable rate funded by DSWT, and the Voyager Camp for their staff and vehicle. But most importantly to Vier Pfoten who supports the DSWT Mobile Veterinary Unit within the Tsavo Conservation Area.