The month experienced reduced precipitation with most of the days being hot and windy. Forage is fast becoming scarce for the grazers.However, compared to the previous month few cases requiring veterinary interventions were reported all of which were attended to. The use of spears and poisoned arrows to injure and kill elephants is still rampant. Two elephants with such injuries were treated while one post mortem was carried out whose cause of death was confirmed to be due to poisoned arrow injuries. All were massive bulls.
Following are cases attended by the unit during the period under review:
Case#1 Fleeing Elephant bull:
Date: 15th May 2014
Location: Oldonyo Rinka
The Mara Elephant project team through their tracking system saw a sudden fast and continuous movement of this collared elephant. The elephant had covered a long distance within a short time indicating that he was fleeing. Last GPS readings before the sudden burst were traced to a wheat farm. They got concerned that this elephant could have been injured at the farms. The elephant collared in June 2013 is christened Bobo.
Immobilization and examination:
By tracking, this elephant was found in a small thicket in Oldonyo Rinka with a bull colleague. It was hard to access the point by vehicle or foot because of the thicket. Services of a helicopter were sought and it was confirmed indeed the elephant had several arrow inflicted injuries. The elephant was driven close to the edge of the thicket before darting from a helicopter.16mgs of etorphine was used delivered through 2ml Daninject dart and it took eight minutes for the elephant to be fully immobilized.
On examination, the elephant was found with three injuries, one on the right rump, a fresh one on the left thigh and a healing one on the left flank.
The injury on the right rump was slightly old with an abscess forming following closure of the wound. This was opened and pus completely drained before probing and lavaging it liberally with water. Hydrogen peroxide and swabs were used to remove dead tissues before clean water being used to rinse. Amoxicillin ointment was packed into the wound after irrigating it with lugol’s iodine. Oxytetracycline spray was topically applied. About two liters of pus was drained from this abscess.
The other wounds were similarly managed though none had pus.Additional treatment included an intramuscular injection of 15000mgs Amoxycillin antibiotic into different sites, intramuscular administration of Flunixin meglumine anti-inflammatory and multivitamin injection. This was also an opportunity to untwist the collar which appeared be slightly twisted.
The whole exercise took forty minutes.
This was achieved by administration of 48 mgs diprenorphine hydrochloride into the ear vein. The elephant woke up within two minutes and moved away to join his colleague.
Case# 2 Release of Giraffes:
Date: 15th May 2014
Location: Olerai Farms, Mara North
KWS patrol rangers in collaboration with Mara Elephant Project team came across these giraffes enclosed in this farm, stressed due to lack of water supply. They also noted a limping giraffe in the group and duly sought our help.
Olerai farms have lately been turned into livestock ranches and crop farms. Initially, it formed dispersal areas for wildlife in Masai Mara National Reserve and other conservancies. In securing the perimeter of these farms, an electric fence was constructed and a few animals were trapped in the enclosure. Among the animals were three giraffes, one young sub adult female and two adult males.
The enclosure has no water supply and the giraffes have been relying on rain water that collects by the roadsides. Rains in that part have since stopped and the last recorded were over a month ago. These giraffes therefore had no future and were staring at their deaths from dehydration. After discussion with the management of the farms, we reached an agreement to find a way of releasing them to join others outside the enclosure.
The female giraffe appeared to be limping on her right leg which we later discovered was a healing wound from a snare that had since come off. This female giraffe was very shy and ran away from us when we moved closer to examine. She hit the fence and banged her head against the post in an attempt to escape falling down on one side. She went into shock and an attempt to resuscitate her were futile as she seemed to have damaged her brain and situation complicated by regurgitation of ingesta and eventual aspiration of the same. This resulted to choke. Quick postmortem showed subdural hemorrhage and aspiration pneumonia. The giraffe however was severely dehydrated.
To save the rest, part of the fence was removed and the giraffes were driven out carefully. Though they tried to resist, we finally managed. They joined the rest of the herd that was outside the fence.
Case#3 Treatment of a lioness:
Date: 20th May 2014
Location: Hammerkop area Masai Mara
Warden, Masai Mara National Reserve, Talek gate called to report having seen this lioness limping on her left front limb. She had three cubs and appeared to have been injured while hunting.
This lioness appeared to be in good health and nursing. At the time of darting, she was caressing a five month old cub. She appeared to be in pain while trying to move and this pain was emanating from her right front limb.
Immobilization and examination:
Immobilization was achieved by use of combination of 3mgs medetomidine and 300mgs Ketamine Hydrochloride delivered in 3ml Daninject dart through Daninject darting riffle. This was done by vehicle. The lion was fully anaesthetized within eight minutes. Antibiotic eye ointment was applied to both eyes against dessication and both eyes covered with face towel. The lioness was then moved to a shade and placed in an appropriate position for examination and treatment.
Closer examination revealed a deep narrow wound on the lateral surface of her right shoulder most likely sustained from a warthog’s tusks. The wound was about four inches deep and touched the scapular spine though not infected. Luckily there was no fracture.
The wound was probed for any foreign body which was negative. It was cleaned with the help of hydrogen peroxide and clean water. It was then mobbed with the help of sterile swabs before iodine being applied.Amoxyicilin ointment was packed into the wound and oxytetracycline spray applied topically. In addition 3000mgs amoxicillin antibiotic and 15mgs Dexamethasone sodium anti-inflammatory was given intramuscularly.The treatment process took thirty minutes.
It was achieved by intramuscular administration of 10mgs atipamizole Hydrochloride one hour after immobilization. The lioness woke up after ten minutes and joined her cub.
Case#4 Treatment of an elephant bull in Naboisho conservancy:
Date: 23rd May 2014
Location: Naibosho Conservancy
This massive elephant bull about 40years old was spotted by management team of Naboisho conservancy lethargic and in pain.
They contacted the mobile veterinary unit on the ground for assistance.
This elephant appeared to be in a lot of pain exhibited by his disinclination to move and occasional shivering. On agitation to move, the elephant showed difficulties in moving the rear limbs. There was a small wound slightly posterior to his left flank and a bigger wound on his right flank.
Immobilization, examination and treatment:
Immobilization was achieved by administration of 16mgs etorphine hydrochloride delivered through a 3ml Daninject dart. This was done by vehicle. After making few movements, the elephant stood for a while and fell down after ten minutes. He assumed right lateral recumbency position.
The wound on the left flank was examined. It was a shallow spear inflicted wound hardly two days old. Though not septic, the wound appeared to have been inflicted with poisoned spear. The wound was lavaged with copious amount of water, debrided with hydrogen peroxide and swabs. Lugol’s iodine was then applied with oxytetracycline spray being used topically. Green clay was finally packed.
The elephant had to be turned over so as to access and assess the wound on the right flank. Combined force of two vehicles was used to turn this elephant. This wound tough slightly deep, bore same properties including age with the first wound hence managed the same way.
In addition, this elephant was given 15000mgs Amoxycillin antibiotic and 1000mgs Dexamethasone sodium anti-inflammatory intramuscularly.The management of the conservancy was advised to monitor this elephant and another treatment may be required later.
Was achieved by administration of 48mgs diprenorphine intravenously through the ear vein. The elephant woke up after three minutes and strode away.
Case#5 Post mortem of an elephant bull at Oldonyo Rinka:
Date: 23rd May 2014
Age: Adult (40-45years)
Location: Ol-donyo Rinka
KWS patrol rangers together with the Mara Elephant Project team came across this carcass at the edge of a forest in Oldonyo Rinka. Both tusks were intact but there were signs of attempted removal. They sought the services of the mobile veterinary unit to determine the cause of death.
General carcass examination:
Carcass was found lying on left lateral recumbency position with both tusks retrieved by KWS and Mara Elephant Project Security team for save custody.
The following were general observations made;
• This elephant was in good body condition at the time of death with a body score of 4 in a scale of 1-5 where 5 is perfect and 1 poor.
• There was no evidence of struggle before death at the scene of the incident.
• Scavengers had already ripped some parts of the carcass opening up the abdomen.
• The carcass was about 48 hours old and purification was beginning to occur.
• Few first stage maggots and fly eggs were seen on the carcass.
• A penetrating wound at the centre of the pinna on the right ear was observed
• Three other penetrating wounds, one on the right thorax, one on the left flank and another on the posterior left thigh was also observed. All the wounds were less than four days old.
On opening the carcass, the following was noted;
1. Subcutaneous fat was gelatinous.
2. There was an old wound possibly caused by spearing on the lumbar region dorsally on the midline. It had a lot of pus on opening.
3. Most of the subcutaneous space was occupied by serosanguineous fluid with hardly any blood clots seen.
4. On tracing the wounds observed, they were shallow, hardly eight inches deep.
5. The wound on the right thoracic area had a small metallic fragment embedded in the subcutaneous tissue. Closer examination of this fragment revealed it was a piece of an arrow head.
6. No other foreign body retrieved from other wounds.
7. All the organs appeared grossly normal.
This elephant died of poisoning from poisoned arrows. The motive was most likely poaching. Oldonyo Rinka has been identified as one area notorious for elephant poaching. This is the second big elephant in less than two months to be killed in this area, in similar circumstances and very close proximity.
The Masai Mara Mobile Veterinary Unit would like to thank all people who in one way or another contributed to success of various interventions carried out during the month.
Many thanks to Kenya Wildlife service (KWS) and David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DWST) whose partnership has seen many animals saved from unwarranted sufferings. They have provided an invaluable support to the unit and conservation in general.
Report by: Dr.Campaign Limo