Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Very sick elephant bull treated cause of illness found 4 days later

Very sick elephant bull treated cause of illness found 4 days later

On Friday the 27th I received a call about sick elephant in the river by old gate entrance. I was on the boat on a sunset cruise so was able to respond rapidly. Elephant was in the water and appeared out of condition and lethargic. I was not moving very well. No obvious wounds were seen. I went back in evening by vehicle after informing BDF I was in park after dark and gave it a 10 cc antibiotic dart and a 10 cc antinflammatory dart. I have been criticized that these dosages are too small but in my experience I have seen various of these large animals respond to this dose. It saves the expense time and stress of sedating an animal which is always a risky business. For example the dose of M99 tranquilizer for an adult elephant is 12 mg , a buffalo which is much smaller takes 15 mg.
On Saturday the 28th I was on boat patrol and found the elephant only 100 meters away from previous evening still in the water. One of the darts was still in his backside. Many guides were going very close to elephant and aggravating it. He had only slightly improved in condition. He appeared not to be able to swallow water as it just poured out his mouth.  In 99% of cases, dart would have been pulled out by elephant or rubbed off on a bush. The dart seemed to be a great source of consternation for many upset tourists.Concerned citizens called me in a panic complaining that this was unsightly and upset the tourists. I had explained to them that this was an antibiotic dart and not a tranquilizing dart. If they were knowledgeable they would have known that a tranquilizer dart is only one cc and very small. I explained to them that if I removed the barb from the dart that it would just bounce out. In a large 10 cc dart it would only inject one third of the antibiotic and thus not receive the entire dose. There still seemed to be controversy raging which I do not at all comprehend.On Sunday 29th a head park official and I went to inspect the elephant. It charged us out of the water requiring us to make a run for it. It stood in one place for over 30 minutes shifting its weight from leg to leg. I suspected an intestinal obstruction but it was not bloated as one usually observes. It has a severe ocular white discharge which is evident in cases of infection. We decided to leave it for one more day.
On Monday 30th the elephant had moved about 5 kilometers to Sedudu pan were it was stationary at a waterhole. Many tourist vehicles were there once again aggravating it. We asked gate staff to tell guides to stay away but not many of them listened. I went to see head official and was in telephonic contact with head of research about issue. The elephant had deteriorated significantly and was now regurgitating vast amounts of water from his stomach. He was also becoming more aggressive as he attempted to charge us on a few occasions. It was strange that he did not charge directly and appeared to be blind.
With permission  I collected the PAC team on call and we went to observe elephant. It was obvious that he was in very bad condition as was not going to recover. Due to his aggressive nature I decided it’s best to euthanize him before he injures someone and to relive his suffering. We shot blanks into the air and he immediately retreated into the thick bush where he was no visible to tourists.
This was done efficiently with one .416 bullet to the brain.
On examination of carcass we found a bullet wound from a small caliber round that had entered at the base of his left tusk. As this had healed over there had been no evidence of outside trauma. He had obviously been shot for his large tusks and must have had his head in an elevated position as is their custom when under threat. It is my professional opinion that the bullet traveled up the root of the tusk and lodged itself in the part of the brain responsible for swallowing and vision hence exhibiting the strange symptoms that we had observed. He was obviously in extreme pain. No one in town apologized to me for the dart they had complained so much about.



bullet wound at base of tusk