It is unbelievable what horror man can inflict on such a magnificent creature. The pain endured by so many elephants in Kenya as a result of snares, spear wounds, poisonous arrow wounds and bullet wounds is graphically illustrated in the elephant cases our Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit has treated over the past month October - November. The extent of the wounds is horrific, the unspeakable agony endured with each step is unimaginable, but now thanks to The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s two mobile veterinary units (Tsavo Conservation Area, and the Central Rift, Masai Mara) we are able to make a significant difference. Within the Tsavo Conservation Area alone our Unit there has brought relief to no less than 143 elephants, through the removal of snares and the treatment of wounds, when cases are brought to the Unit’s attention. Had the Unit not been there to assist all would otherwise have perished in unspeakable agony. Not only does The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust raise the orphaned elephants, but we tackle the ‘big picture’, raising funds for the protection of elephants in the wild through our Anti poaching teams, our Mobile Veterinary Units, our Community Education programs and through the fencing of sensitive boundaries, which has helped alleviate human wildlife conflict.
Dida Harea Elephant.
This elephant, approximately 15 years old, had a snare deeply embedded on the mid left fore leg. This was obviously a long standing injury as tissues were covering the snare apart from the posterior part of the leg where the snare knot was visible with a pussy discharge. It required radical surgery to remove the snare, and one could only imagine the unspeakable agony this elephant had endured for months. Despite the injury the elephant was able to use the leg, and the prognosis for a recovery is good, but it is likely there will always be a lameness to the leg.
Taita Hills Sanctuary Elephant.
The other elephant with a snare was an elephant aged about 20 years at Taita Hills sanctuary (Salt Lick). The snare was deeply embedded on the lower right hind leg inflicting a deep injury that was very infected. The sanctuary management has promised to monitor and relay progress to the Unit.
Taita Hills Sanctuary Elephant Calf
Another snare case was a young calf aged about 1½ years also at Salt Lick, Taita Hills Sanctuary. The snare was loose around the neck fortunately and so once the calf was darted the whole process took all of five minutes to remove and the calf was soon reunited with its mother.
Satao Camp Elephant
Another injured bull elephant was brought to the Unit’s attention with an injury on the ventral abdomen. It had a large piece of tissue hanging from the ventral abdomen. Upon immobilisation, an extensive injury was found that was heavily infected. The cause was difficult to determine. Only the skin was involved, the abdominal muscles looked intact. It was cleaned thoroughly and treated topically with hydrogen peroxide and water. All necrotic tissues were trimmed. Thereafter, the injury was infused with lugol’s iodine and an antibiotic ointment. A high dose of a long acting antibiotic was given. We will continue to liaise with the Satao camp manager to find out whether the bull is sighted again and enquire on progress.
An Elephant calf we named ASKARI
Aged about 3 years this calf was rescued near Bachuma in Tsavo East on 11th October. It had narrow penetrating bullet wounds on the lower fore legs, the hindquarters and the neck. The injuries were heavily infected and the body condition was very poor. According to reports, the animal was being seen in the general area for over two weeks before the report was made. It seemed to have been left behind by the family after it failed to keep pace because of the injuries. Treatment was administered and the calf moved to the Voi elephant stockades for observation and repeated treatment. Another treatment was made on 14th October when the infections were found to have cleared significantly. The wounds on the hindquarters and the neck had very little pus discharges. However, the ones on the legs were still discharging pus. All the wounds were cleaned and infused with an antibiotic ointment and a systemic antibiotic was also administered. During the observation period the animal remained weak and there was no improvement in the body condition. It finally succumbed on the 28th October.
Another elephant calf rescued in October we called MISHALE
Another rescue was of a 2 year old at in Tsavo east. The calf was lame on its left hind leg which was thought to be due to a fracture that was in the process of uniting. There was an opening at the level of the injury that was oozing pus that we suspected was a result of a poisonous arrow wound. The calf was immobilised and taken to the Voi elephant stockades where treatment was administered. A lot of white thick pus was drained from the injury and the opening was widened to create drainage for any other pus that would have accumulated after the treatment. Unfortunately on the second day, the calf went down during the night and could not stand up even when supported and later died.
The fourth rescue was a 10 month old calf that was seen taking water alone at Satao camp watering hole on the 23rd October. By the time we reached the camp, we found the calf several metres from the watering hole down and unable to stand up. Our initial thinking was that it was suffering from hyperthermia because it was lying under direct sunlight with high ambient temperature. The body temperature was 39°C which was on the higher side. We therefore cooled it with copious amounts of water until the temperature went down. We thereafter loaded it onto an open pick-up truck and transported it to the elephant stockades at Voi where more supportive treatment was given that included an antibiotic and a corticosteroid (Dexamethasone) as well as water and a milk formula. The calf remained recumbent and never stood up. It died later that night.