Published on the 31st of July, 2015
THE TREATMENT OF AN INJURED AMBOSELI BULL
On 24 July 2015, an elephant was sighted near the KWS headquarters in Amboseli with a spear wound to his right flank. Unfortunately, Amboseli’s DSWT/KWS vet, Dr Njoroge, was away for a conference so DSWT/KWS Tsavo Mobile Veterinary unit vet, Dr Poghon, was called to respond. While the elephant was being monitored it began to make a move towards the marshes. Fearing that the window for treatment might be closing, DSWT’s aerial unit was mobilised to collect Dr Poghon from Voi and fly him to where a vehicle was ready to ferry him to the scene.
After a short chase by vehicle, the doctor was able to skilfully dart the injured bull who continued moving until he was in a nice open area before going down. When he eventually fell unconscious, he had slid down onto his chest. A strap was tied to his tusk and the vehicle quickly pulled him over on to his side to relieve pressure on his lungs and allow him to breathe easily so that Dr Poghon could start his work. The doctor confirmed that the injury had been caused by a spear and fortunately was no more than two days old so had not yet begun to go septic.
The procedure itself was straightforward, but while Poghon was administering the last shot of antibiotics, having cleaned out the wound and dressed it with green clay, the elephant suddenly awoke. Startled rangers rushed to cover the elephant’s eye and others assisted in putting weight on his head to keep him from standing. Their efforts were in vain, however, and the massive bull effortlessly swung his head and rose to his feet as men scattered in all directions. Fortunately, he did not charge and instead walked a short distance away before collapsing again. At this time, Dr Poghon was able to inject a revival drug to wake him up properly and the elephant stood up again and walked away.
With the procedure over, the team went back to admire some of the other big bulls that had had been in his company. His friends included one very fine specimen named Craig, who is an only slightly smaller version of the world-famous Tim. Incidentally, Tim was recently spotted in very good health, having been treated back in November 2014 by the DSWT/KWS Amboseli mobile veterinary unit – also for spear wounds.
Spear victims in Amboseli are often the result of human-wildlife conflict due to the increasing number of irrigated farms springing up around fragile water supplies.