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FOUR PAWS mobile vet clinic: How the Kenya team helped animals through the drought

It was a very long dry spell that lasted from May to the middle of October and took its tool on the national parks of Tsavo and Amboseli. The FOUR PAWS mobile vet unit with Dr Jeremiah Poghon and his team had to tackle several problems at once in this period.

© FOUR PAWS | Mihai Vasile

For one, the drought and shortage of food weighed heavily on the animals. But equally dramatic was the repeated increase of poaching incidents in this protected area. Since the attentive rangers have been doing an excellent job for years, poachers are now specialising in insidious snare traps and arrows in order to draw less attention. With the FOUR PAWS ambulance, Dr Poghon was on a tireless mission to reach trapped elephants and other animals on time. The lives of many wild animals have been saved as a direct consequence.

The FOUR PAWS team is in constant exchange with the gamekeepers of the bordering national parks. How quickly they can react to the sighting of a wounded animal is a life and death issue. Every day, elephants, zebras and lions were immobilised, projectile and snares removed and wounds treated. The success rate of the mobile vet unit is astonishingly high, particularly considering that the rise of poaching was not the only task that needed to be dealt with: there were also incidents of the hazardous elephant virus EEHV and a looming epidemic of foot-and-mouth disease in buffaloes, which can also spread to other species. Climate change, irregular rain periods and increasingly long droughts are having a devastating impact on the Tsavo ecosystem. In November of 2012, the Kenya Wildlife Service KWS embarked on a new anti-poaching operation, which lead to the arrests of 37 poachers. 38 kilogrammes of ivory, 472 kilos of meat and numerous weapons were confiscated in the drive.

© FOUR PAWS | Mihai Vasile

An elephant's will to survive

The case Jeremiah Poghon considers the most emotional of his entire vet carrier was the rescue of an elephant bull in September. Rangers had succeeded in putting a group of poachers to flight in the dried out riverbed of the Voi, but they soon gave up hope on the badly hurt animal. When the veterinarians finally arrived, the pachyderm was in its death struggle, hit with five arrows and tied to a tree with a wire sling. But the elephant was to win its fight: the treatment of the wounds had taken precious hours and the tree made it impossible to lift the animal with the aid of a jeep, but in spite of these obstacles, the proud animal suddenly rose by itself. The team and the park rangers were rejoicing at the sight of this moment, because it is of symbolic weight to the challenging future of the national parks.

FOUR PAWS has been financing the Tsavo initiative of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust for many years. Due to your donations the exceptional work of the regional vet team can be maintained on a sustained basis.