Watch: Sky Vets Swoop in to Save Lioness

Field surgery in Kenya requires quick thinking and guts

Apr 15, 2014
Outside Magazine
Veterinary superheroes attend to a mutilated African lioness in the field.

Veterinary superheroes attend to a mutilated African lioness in the field.    dswtkenya/YouTube

Sky Vets, operated by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi, mobilizes Kenya Wildlife Service field veterinarians in emergencies through much-needed transportation and logistical services.

The mobile vet service has come in particularly handy in hard-to-reach places. Take, for example, a situation on April 4: Sky Vets was dispatched to treat 11-year-old Siena, a lioness that had been impaled by a bull buffalo on the Maasai Mara National Reserve. The team, led by Dr. Njoroge, arrived to find Siena conscious, limping, and with all of the muscles in her left hind flank exposed. Njoroge's assistants darted Siena, and the doctor quickly set about cleaning her wounds.

Using nothing but saline to disinfect and suturing materials, Njoroge had Siena sewn together in about 90 minutes. The seasoned field vet packed the animal's leg with green clay, gave her both topical and injected antibiotics, and had her back on her feet and with her cubs soon after.

Two days later, Sky Vets received this message from the reserve: "To see this lioness walking with her cubs and also squatting to release urine while she showed little remorse or pain was amazing. We only hope that she continues to improve."

Siena got into trouble on her own terms, but for many injured African animals, the fight was never fair. Poachers have already killed at least 18 rhinos and 51 elephants in Kenya within the past four months, and the country is desperately overhauling its wildlife department.

Kenya's poaching problems have necessitated a need for more technologically savvy and efficient animal protection. Much is being done to monitor poaching—recently through the use of drones and literal watchdogs— but wound care requires veterinarians on-site. That's where nonprofits like Sky Vets come in. 

For a complete list of DSWT's heroic escapades, visit the organization's news updates page.

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