International Programs Student Feature

Taylor SmithTaylor Smith

Class: DVM Class of 2018
Hometown: Greencastle, Indiana
Program: Kenya Summer Trip

What international program did you participate in?

I traveled to Kenya to work with Kenya Wildlife Services during the summer of 2016 (May 9 through June 16).

How would you summarize your experience?

There is no better place in the world to experience wildlife medicine than in Kenya. Being a part of the anti-poaching and wildlife conservation efforts of the Kenya Wildlife Services is a huge honor. You cannot leave Kenya the same person you were when you came.

Where did you travel to?

Over the course of my trip, I traveled to the capital Nairobi, where I went to the Giraffe Center and the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, and then the Masai Mara National Reserve. I also spent 10 days with the Amboseli Mobile Vet Unit, traveling from Amboseli to the Arabuko Sokoke National Forest, the south coast by Mombasa, Tsavo East, Shimba Hills, and Tsavo West.

What animals did you work with?

In Mara, we treated three lions. The first one had bite wounds on her hind quarters, the second had to be translocated from a village to prevent further human wildlife conflict, and the third was a famous lion, Scarface, who had to have his scar retreated because it had reopened. All of these experiences were amazing. Dr. Limo, the veterinarian I stayed with, taught us a lot of about the drugs used in wildlife medicine. He also Taylor Smithlet us give all the injections and help clean the wounds. While with the Amboseli Mobile Vet Unit, I got to help group collar a lion that was killing a village’s cattle. We spent 5 hours in the heavy bush playing dying wildebeest and dying cattle noises from a loud speaker on top of the land cruiser and had a dead impala that had been killed by a cheetah that morning hanging from a nearby tree as bait. After a long wait, our sneaky lioness came out! We darted the right lion and were able to call to our team to come with the drugs. While the Lion Guardians took measurements and collared her, the doctor let me decide how much prophylactic antibiotics and anti-parasitics to give to her. After I made my doses, he let me give all of the injections. All of this was done while we were being watched by the lioness' six cubs and another adult female…at night. It was crazy and amazing.

While traveling with the Amboseli Mobile Vet Unit, I treated a number of elephants. An elephant in Amboseli had a swollen hind leg likely from a fall or fight, which we treated by antibiotics, anti-inflammatory, and steroids. We heard about an elephant in Tsavo East acting weird near the watering hole, so we headed there. This adult female elephant was suffering from some type of internal infection, suspected from a miscarriage. We sedated and treated with lots and lots of antibiotics, steroids, and multivitamin injections. Again I got to do the majority of the injections. We spent three days in Shimba Hills searching for an elephant with a snare wound. We finally spotted the elephant, sedated him with a dart, and cut off the snare from the front limb, cleaned the wound, and gave all of our injections of antibiotics, NSAIDS, and ivermectin in record time. On one of my last days, we traveled to Tsavo West to treat an elephant with reported "reproductive issues." Even examining the elephant from a distance, we could tell that this case wasn't going to be easy and the elephant was in a lot of pain. When we were able to examine the elephant up close after sedation, we found a lot of cancerous masses and necrotic tissue in his inguinal region. There was nothing we could do to treat and euthanasia was the best option. While this case was sad, it gave me the dose of reality that we can't save all of them.

What is a memorable moment from your trip?

When we were at Shimba Hills, we spent three days searching in the thick bush looking for this snared elephant. On foot. Which is not super fun when you are walking blindly with a bunch of guys with guns talking in a language you can't understand and then you get chased by an elephant. All while trying to not think about the black cobra that had been translocated to the forest two weeks before. But it was an experience!

What do you wish you had known beforehand?

Later in the summer is a busier time, so I would have gone in July. When I go back fourth year, I want to go in August. I would have also learned a little bit of Swahili.

What is a major takeaway from your trip?

Every single person that I met in Kenya was so kind and amazing. Everyone there becomes your family and it is hard to leave such a beautiful, loving country.

Would you recommend this program to other PVM students? Why?

YES! Not only will this trip benefit students in learning different aspects of veterinary medicine, it will change their entire outlook on life. After spending a month in a third world country, you appreciate everything you have here.

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