Big bull elephant treated for spear wounds

Published on the 1st of July, 2019

On 30th June we responded to reports of a bull elephant, sighted on Mbirikani group ranch, with three spear wounds around the base of his trunk, and two more around his hind area.

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Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) vet Dr. Poghon, who heads the SWT/KWS Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit, was collected from the Tsavo East National Park headquarters in Voi by SWT pilot Taru Carr-Hartley, and flown thirty minutes to the location on the western side of the Chyulu Hills. Andy Payne in the SWT helicopter waited for the team at the nearby airstrip, alongside the Big Life Rangers who had monitored the patient until such time as help could be mobilized.

Once on site Dr. Poghon prepared the tranquiliser dart and his veterinary equipment and the decision was made to dart the elephant from the helicopter. Once the dart was in, and while the team waited for the immobilization drug to take effect, the helicopter hovered above the patient to keep him in an open area so that access for ground vehicles and treatment would be easier. When the bull finally fell to the ground, asleep, the teams sprang into action, ensuring his airways remained open, and water was splashed onto his body and behind his ears to keep his body temperature cool; then the focus was on his injuries.

Maggots were already in some of the facial wounds beside his trunk, which must have been causing him great discomfort, but each and every wound was systematically and thoroughly cleaned before being packed with green clay to stave off any further infection, and both anti-inflammatory and antibiotic drugs administered. The whole operation took around 30 minutes before it was time to infuse the revival drug into one of his giant veins located behind his ear, after which the team moved a safe distance away to watch and wait for him to stir and rise to his feet.

By this time, the sun was low to the horizon with little daylight left, so everything was hastily packed up and the two SWT aircraft lifted off to return home to our Kaluku Field Headquarters before night fall. It is comforting to know that the vet's prognosis is for a full recovery and that this beautiful big bull will surely feel a lot more comfortable now that his injuries have been cleaned and treated.

SWT/KWS Vet Units respond to injured animal cases across Kenya

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