It was the third weekend of the month of January in the new year 2010. The vet unit members based in the Mara had agreed to spend the day cleaning and clearing the grass around the camp which was sprouting up really fast due to the heavy rains pounding the area. As usual, without any warning we received a call from the warden in charge, Ruma National Park which is situated on the shores of Lake Victoria, in Western Kenya, concerning two endangered Rothschild giraffes that had Wire snares on them and required immediate veterinary attention to save them from the pain or even eventual death. But the distance involved was long and the roads not so smooth so we all agreed it best to organize ourselves for the journey which would take place first light the following morning. We set out early the following day for the long, tedious and bumpy ride and after eight hours of driving we finally arrived in Ruma Park headquarters and the warden welcomed us and informed us that he had seen the snared Long necks in the morning. We decided to take a rest for the evening and attend to the animals the following morning since darting an animal in the evening is very risky in many ways to the persons involved and the animals too.
Early the following day without even breakfast we set out to the park looking for the snared animals. First to be spotted was a young mother with a tiny calf barely a few days old. She was limping really badly but after a long assessment, we ascertained that she had no metal snare on her and her problem was a dislocation on her hipbone which may have been caused by putting her foot in a hole at full gallop. She seemed to be in a lot of pain but after a long and careful assessment we agreed it best not to intervene in any way since anaesthetizing her would most likely stress her further. Most wild animals easily succumb to such stress and giraffes are no exception and that would leave the young calf with no mother, no milk and therefore no hope for survival. Nerves heal slowly given a chance, so we all wished her a quick recovery.
After a long search for the second snare victim in the long grass and Acacia scrubland, we finally found her and the rest of the herd crossing the road and were able to clearly see the limping mother with a yearling calf by her side. We therefore agreed to dart her so that we could remove the wire snare and clean the wound thoroughly. As the dart was being prepared by the vet, all the herd members stopped, including our candidate and stood still staring at us as if waiting for us to attend to their colleague who was in dire need of our attention. That gave us ample time to organize everything and when ready she was still stopped next to our vehicle. Even after darting, she ran a few meters away and again stopped to stare at us. All this time, her calf and some other few herd members kept to the victims’ side as if to empathize with her and support her as she went through the vital treatment. She finally went down on her own without the usual way of being roped down. At that moment we all quickly went down with everything necessary like wire cutter, wound cleaning drugs, antibiotics and the antidote for revival. Within a few moments we were through and amazingly her calf and all the other herd members were all quietly waiting for their mother and colleague a few meters away unperturbed by the human presence in their midst, as if knowing all too well that we meant no harm to them and were actually helping one of their own from the excruciating pain and probable death. When she stood up, she again stopped to stare at us assumingly offering her gratitude to us for our help in her hour of need. After a few moments she galloped away to join her waiting family and friends whose eyes were all glued to us. We bid them goodbye and left the scene satisfied that the long journey traveled was not in vain and once again had saved a life out of pain and uncertainty.
To the team members this was another classic example of the love and kindness for one another in the wild and the love and respect they usually hold for those working for their welfare and especially those in pain inflicted by the callousness of man.
Thank you all for your kindness and support accorded to this important veterinary project
By Micheni Felix- Mara Vet unit.