Helping a Bull and a Buffalo

Published on the 1st of April, 2022

In many ways, last Sunday’s veterinary saga was a tale of opposites: One patient was a male, the other a female. One was roaming solo, the other had a baby by her side. One had a wounded foot, the other had an injury around the neck. The common denominator was that both these creatures were hurt through human actions.

It unfolded on 27th March 2022. The previous day, KWS rangers flagged an injured bull near a water hole just south of Tsavo East National Park. He had been observed heavily limping, with a visible injury to his front left foot.

The bull had a pronounced limp due to a foot injury

The next morning, Wildlife Works conducted a patrol to locate the elephant. Because the head vet of the SWT/KWS Tsavo Vet Unit was on leave and the Amboseli Unit was busy in the field, we flew a vet down from Nairobi. In the meantime, Wildlife Works ground teams kept tabs on the patient.

Aerial capabilities are invaluable in field veterinary operations

The vet arrived at Bachuma Airstrip, where our pilot met him in our helicopter. Aerial capabilities provide an enormous advantage in elephant treatments. Not only does the helicopter enable the vet to dart patients from the air, but it can then shepherd the elephant into open terrain for treatment. This unfolded without a hitch, and within minutes, the bull had succumbed to the anaesthetic.

The bull's injury appeared to be caused by human hands

The vet found that the bull had a deep, penetrating wound to the front of his foot. It was likely inflicted by a sharp, metallic object — possibly a spike or a spear. Fortunately, we intervened early and infection had not yet set in. After cleaning the wound, the vet administered long-acting antibiotics. The bull walked off with a positive prognosis, but he will continue to be monitored.

Our next patient was a snared mother buffalo

As soon as that treatment was complete, we received a call from KWS about a snared buffalo. The patient was in southern Tsavo East, not far from the first operation. The team flew directly there, and found this brave mother in a bad way. The snare was wrapped taut around her neck and had clearly been there for quite some time, given her poor condition. To further complicate matters, she had a juvenile baby by her side.

The snare was wrapped taut around her neck, causing extraordinary pain

Again, the vet darted the patient from the air while ground teams moved in to commence treatment. The helicopter kept the buffalo’s baby at bay, as he was very angry and upset. After cutting away the snare, the team revived the buffalo and reunited her with her calf. While her injury was grave, this treatment gave her the best possible chance of recovery.

While she had lost a lot of condition, she now has the best possible chance of recovering

Our six Mobile Vet Units and Sky Vets were formed to save all manner of creatures and keep wild families together. Both these treatments are tangible examples of that mission at work. We are incredibly grateful to our supporters, who make these life-saving operations possible.

Our rapid reponse veterinary initiative is saving lives

A cornerstone of our conservation mission, over the years, we have attended to over 8,400 veterinary cases, saving thousands of wild lives in the process.
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