THE MARA MOBILE VETERINARY UNIT
REPORT FOR - December 2009

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Summary

During the month of December, the KWS Central Rift veterinary unit based in Maasai Mara managed to attend to most of the reported cases in Maasai Mara and Narok areas. Some of the cases attended to include treatment of an adult female elephant with a deep wound penetrating through the subcutaneous muscles on the right side of the abdomen. Another case of an adult male elephant with a dislocation of a stifle (knee) joint was reported from Kawai area over the Oloololo escarpment, the elephant could not recover from the dislocation and was euthanized then tusks recovered.  

A Maasai giraffe and a zebra were successfully desnared and treated in Koiyaki-Lemek wildlife Conservancy in the Northeastern adjacent area of Maasai Mara National Reserve. Two female problematic buffaloes were relocated from Mara Shimo farm to Ol-Choro-Oiroua Conservancy, they had broken through the fence and invaded the farm a few weeks ago, the buffaloes had become athreat to workers in that farm and the vet unit was requested to move them outside. Four lion cubs with a suspected mange infection of skin were successfully captured and treated near Serena lodges along Mara river.  The recent droughts have led to increased livestock incursion into the Mara National reserve and cases of wildlife injuries due to human-wildlife conflict are on the increase in Mara ecosystem.

Treatment of an injured male elephant near Little Governors camp in Maasai Mara

This was a case of an adult female elephant with a one year old calf which had a deep wound penetrating through the subcutaneous muscles on the right side of the abdomen. The wound was already infected, exuding a lot of pus and full of maggots, with pieces of necrotic tissues falling off from the wound. It was suspected that the elephant was attacked with an arrow and later on acute inflammation and infection led to extensive wounds on the abdomen.  The animal was already becoming emaciated and weak.

Chemical immobilization, examination and treatment

The elephant was darted from a vehicle using 15mgs of etorphine Hcl combined with 1000 i.u of  hyaluronidase, the drug took effect after about 6 minutes and it became recumbent. The wound was probed using a long tissue forceps and swabs, it had an entry point on the dorsal part of the abdomen and an exit point on the ventral side of the abdomen. The ventral opening served as a drainage point for pus and fluid exuding from the wound. The wound was then cleaned with a lot of water and gauze swabs to remove all the mud, pus, tissue debris and maggots. The wound was further cleaned using 10% hydrogen peroxide and drained all the accumulated pus and tissue debris, then later treated with a tincture of iodine and oxytetracycline spray. Intramuscular administration of long-acting oxytetracycline antibiotics, multivitamins and dexamethasone were also provided. 

The elephant had a deep penetrating wound on the right side of the abdomen  The immobilized elephant before treatment

Cleaning the wound  The wound after treatment

Revival of anaesthesia

After treatment, the elephant was revived from anaesthesia using 24mgs of diprenorphine hydrochloride administered through the superficial ear-vein. It was to be monitored closely by the Mara rangers.

Prognosis

It had good chances of healing after the treatment since the wound did not extend into the abdominal cavity and had a good drainage of pus, it had also started developing granulomatous tissues which is a good sign of healing.

Treatment of an elephant with a dislocated stiffle (knee) joint in Kawai area, Maasai Mara

This was a case of an adult male elephant that was sighted by the community residents in Kawai area in a densely vegetated area. It was unable to move and had remained in one location just near human settlements for more than a week. It had a small abrassive wound on the medial side of the right front leg, the wound was so superficial and could not affect its movement. The trunk had been cut off long time ago and had completely healed so the animal was surviving on a half trunk.

The elephant had a severed trunk

Chemical immobilization and examination

The elephant was darted on foot using 15mgs of etorphine Hcl right at the centre of the thicket, it took about 5 minutes to become recumbent. The affected leg was examined and found to be greatly swollen almost double the normal size but there was no penetrating wound other than the small abrassive superficial wound on the medial side of the leg. No other lesion or clinical sign was noted on the rest of its body parts but the elephant was severely emaciated due to a prolonged period of pain and inability to move and graze properly. The leg was flexed and palpated severally in an attempt to identify the cause of the swelling and pain on the affected leg. No significant finding was found as the cause of the injury but yet the animal was unable to walk, remained static in one location with persistent deterioration of its body condition.

After a series of examination, it was concluded that it must have got a dislocation probably with some bone fractures around the knee (stiffle) joint.

Examining the elephant  The elephant had a knee joint dislocation

The euthanized elephant

Prognosis

The elephant had a very poor prognosis and rare chances of recovery, it was under intense pain and completely unable to move so it could not access food and water. It had lost much of its body condition due to pain and starvation. The veterinary team therefore decided to euthanize it in order to alleviate endless pain and suffering of the elephant. Both the tusks were recovered and taken to a safe custody in KWS stores at Kilgoris.

Removal of a snare and treatment of a Giraffe in Koiyaki-Lemek Wildlife Conservancy, Mara

This was an adult male giraffe that had been sighted with a tight wire snare on the right front leg. The wire was tight but had not inflicted any severe traumatic injury to the giraffe. It had difficulties in movement and could be seen limping with a lot of pain. The animal was sighted by the Koiyaki Conservancy rangers while on their regular patrol, they then reported the case to Mara veterinary unit so that it could be attended to

Chemical immobilization and restrain

The giraffe was darted from a vehicle using 13mgs of etorphine hydrochloride combined with 40mgs of Xylazine hydrochloride. It took about 5 minutes to get narcotized and was then roped down manually. It was then dowsed liberally with a lot of water to help control the body temperature.

The wire was then cut off using a wire cutter and the small abrassive wound sprayed with oxytetracycline spray. Blood samples were obtained from the jugular vein that will be analyzed in the lab for health monitoring purposes.

The immobilized giraffe

The snare on the right front leg  The giraffe gets to its feet

Anaesthesia revival

After treatment the animal was revived from anaesthesia using 5mgs of Atipamezole hydrochloride combined with 36mgs of Diprenorphine hydrochloride administered through the jugular vein. It rose up after about 2 minutes and took off to the nearest thicket.

Prognosis

Prognosis was good after removing the wire which was constantly irritating the animal, it was still in good body condition and had better chances of recovery from the injury.

Removal of a snare and treatment of a common zebra in Koiyaki-Lemek Wildlife Conservancy, Mara.

This was a case of an adult male zebra that had been sighted with a tight wire snare cutting through the fetlock joint of the right hind leg. The snare had inflicted a very severe wound on the leg and the wound was bleeding profusely as the wire kept on cutting through the muscles. It had stayed with the injury for some days and was unable to move and graze at the same rate with other zebras.

It was captured by darting using 5mgs of etorphine hydrochloride combined with 80mgs of xylazine hydrochloride on the left hind thigh. The wire was immediately cut off using a wire cutter, retrieved from the wound and removed completely leaving an extensive raw wound on the limb. The wound was then treated using 10% hydrogen peroxide and a tincture of iodine applied topically on it and sprayed using oxytetracycline spray. 

Immobilizing the zebra after it is darted  The snare wound

Cutting the snare in order to remove it  The wound is cleaned and disinfected

The snare wound after treatment

It was then revived from anaesthesia and released back to the wild after successful treatment.  It had good prognosis after the removal of the snare and treatment of the ensuing wound.

Relocation of two female buffaloes from Mara Shimo farm to the neighbouring Ol-Choro-Oiroua Conservancy, Mara.

This was a case of two female buffaloes which had broken through the fence and got into a wheat plantation called Mara Shimo farm. They then took refuge in a small bushy area near the offices and residential quarters of the farm.  The buffaloes used to get out from the bush to graze on the wheat farm at night then return to the thickets at dawn. They had become a threat to the farm workers who usually move on foot within the farm during the day and night. They were also very destructive to the wheat farm at night. The farm manager then contacted the Mara veterinary unit to help move the animals just outside the fence for the safety of the animals and workers in the farm.

The buffaloes were flushed out from the thicket during the day and darted in the open wheat field using 5mgs of etorphine hydrochloride combined with 30mgs of xylazine hydrochloride, they were darted simultaneously from a vehicle. The immobilized buffaloes were then lifted onto a tractor manually by people using ropes and hand, they were then driven to a nearby Ol-Choro-Oiroua conservancy. 

The buffalo is darted

A buffalo for translocation  The buffalo in the back of the truck

Preparing to offload the buffalo  Reviving a buffalo after translocation

The buffalo in its new home

Revival from anaesthesia

The buffaloes were safely offloaded from the tractor and revived from anaesthesia using 24mgs of diprenorphine hydrochloride combined with 5mgs of atipamezole Hcl administered through the jugular vein. The two buffaloes rose up safely and joined a nearby herd in Ol-Choro-Oiroua after a successful relocation.

Treatment of lion cubs with skin infection near Serena lodges, Maasai Mara

Seven lion cubs in a pride of 15 lions were sighted with a skin infection near Mara river opposite Serena lodges. The cubs were alopecic (loss of hair), emaciated and generally weak. Three of the affected cubs were approximately 4 months old, belonged to one lioness and were still suckling. Four other cubs were older, about 8 months old and still depended on their mother for food and support. The younger cubs were heavily infected mostly on the limbs and tail.

Four cubs that were severely affected were captured manually after isolating them from their mother or captured during when the mother was hunting and they were left behind.

Examination and treatment

The cubs were well examined, alopecia was marked in all of them, the hairless areas were smooth with no crusts or scabs. They were severely emaciated and weak, body temperature and pulse were normal. They were suspected to be suffering from either mange infestation or mineral deficiencies particularly copper.

The cubs were treated using ivomectin, antibiotics and multivitamins, skin scrapping samples were collected and stored in 70% alcohol for further analysis and confirmation of diagnosis. Further treatment using Frontline antiparasitic spray and oxytetracycline spray on the alopecic patches and scrapped areas. After treatment each cub was released to join the rest of the pride for safety.

The treated cubs had better chances of recovery but there is need for a repeat treatment within the next two weeks if the infection will still persist. Mange is a contagious disease and there is the real danger of the infected lions transmitting the infection to other healthy lions in the pride. So the rangers were requested to monitor the affected pride daily to note the progress in case they require further intervention. 

Immobilized lion cub

Examining the cub  Taking samples

The lion cub after treatment

Conclusion

The veterinary unit in Mara responded to many cases of sick and injured wildlife species within Narok and Mara ecosystem. During the month of December, various wildlife species including elephants, lions, giraffes and common zebras were treated for infections and injuries of varying extents. Incidences of injuries were mostly due to human-wildlife conflict particularly on elephants coming from crop farming areas of Transmara District and the nearby human settlement areas. Kenya Wildlife Service greatly appreciates the support of David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) that has made the unit to respond promptly and effectively to wildlife veterinary cases in Mara ecosystem and Central Rift region.

Report by: Dr. Domnic Mijele

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