THE MERU MOBILE VETERINARY UNIT
REPORT FOR - October 2017

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This report describes activities of the DSWT/KWS Meru Veterinary Unit operating in northern Kenya in October 2017.

Main activities carried out included control of a canine distemper disease outbreak in wild dogs in Laikipia ecosystem, treatment of an injured Grevy’s zebra at Lewa Conservancy. In Meru National Park we treated an injured lion and rescued a buffalo, which was stuck in a swamp.

1. TREATMENT OF AN INJURED LION IN MERU NATIONAL PARK

Date: 11/10/17

Species: Lion

Sex: Male

Age: Adult

Location: Meru National Park

History

This injured lion was first seen by visitors on a game drive in the park who requested urgent veterinary attention. It was suspected to have been in a fight resulting in severe wounds on its left forelimb and lacerations on the body. It showed lameness and had moved a short distance overnight. The lion was immobilized for treatment on 11/10/17.

Chemical immobilization and physical examination

Effective anesthesia was achieved by a single dart containing 300 mg Ketamine hydrochloride and 10mg Medetomidine hydrochloride into the gluteal muscles at 1719hr. The drugs were delivered remotely by a Dan-Inject darting rifle in a 3.0 ml dart syringe and a 2.0 × 40 mm needle. Induction time was 10 minutes. Vital physiological parameters were monitored during the procedure including respiration rate and body temperature in order to assess its physiological status while under anesthesia.

Examination showed a 10cm tear on the medial claw of the left forelimb. There were puncture wounds caused by bites on its elbow causing swelling. Skin Lacerations caused by claw marks were seen on the abdomen.

Its upper right canine tooth was broken suggesting it is an old male. The wounds were caused by territorial fights by younger males with intent to take over the pride females in Mulika area.

Treatment and prognosis

Wounds were debrided with dilute hydrogen peroxide to remove dead tissue and povidone iodine applied. Green clay was also applied on lacerations. Antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs were also injected by intramuscular route. At 1830 hr Yohimbine 25mg was injected by intravenous route to reverse effect of anesthesia. Fifteen minutes later it was on standing position.

Update: Ten days later this lion was found to have regained its health and was in good body condition showing that the treatment was successful.

 

2. CANINE DISTEMPER VACCINATION IN DOMESTIC DOGS IN LAIKIPIA ECOSYSTEM

History

An outbreak of canine distemper disease occurred in African wild dogs and domestic dogs in Laikipia ecosystem between April to August 2017. Disease investigation carried out by wildlife veterinarians revealed the outbreak started in domestic dogs in Doldol, northern Laikipia and spread to the north and east of the focal point. Morbidity and mortality was later reported in sympatric wild dogs. The report showed that entire packs of African wild dogs in Laikipia had died or could not be accounted for following the outbreak. In view of this, there was an urgent need for intervention to prevent further spread of the disease to contiguous wildlife habitats in Isiolo and Samburu.

African wild dog is listed as endangered in the IUCN red list of endangered species and its population has declined or disappeared from much of range. Habitat fragmentation with consequent human wildlife conflict and spill over diseases has been identified as the main drivers of wild dog population decline.  Studies have also shown temporal and geographical fluctuation of wild dog populations, which increases risk of local extinction, due to a combination of high mortality, high fecundity and wide-ranging behavior. Woodroffe reported a recovery of sub population in Laikipia from zero sighting in 1999 to 170 individuals in 2006.

Domestic dogs are thought to be the reservoirs of canine distemper virus (CDV). Sick dogs transmit the virus to other domestic dogs and to sympatric wild dogs and meso carnivores. The epidemiology of canine distemper disease is complicated by a wide range of host species including canidae and felidae such as lions. Control of the spread of CDV is mainly achieved through vaccination of susceptible dogs using attenuated or modified – live CDV vaccines.

A CDV vaccination campaign was carried out in domestic dogs on October 8 - 14 in areas adjacent to the Lewa wildlife conservancy to form a disease barrier around the conservancy. Lewa conservancy provided the vaccines and delivery logistics while veterinarians from KWS and the state directorate of veterinary services carried out the vaccination. The target was to reach 2000 dogs in remote parts of northern Kenya within 6 days. More than 1,450 dogs were immunized which is 70% of the target. Other phases of vaccination are planned in Samburu area.

 

3. WHITE RHINO EAR NOTCHING

Date: 14/10/17

Species: White rhino

Sex: Male

Age: Sub adult

Location: Lewa Wildlife Conservancy

History

On 14thOctober the Meru Unit provided veterinary support to immobilize and ear notch a white rhino in Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.  Ear notching is a simple surgical procedure which entails excision of a predetermined pattern on the ear pinna for individual identification and monitoring of rhinos.

 

4. RESCUE OF A BUFFALO

Species: Buffalo

Sex: Female

Age: Adult

Location: Meru National Park

History

Rangers on patrol found a buffalo and its calf stuck in a swamp on the edge of rhino sanctuary and was unable to get out. Since the calf was dead, they were thought to have been stuck for more than 12 hours. Using ropes we pulled out the female from the mud. After a brief rest she stood up and we are hopeful that she will recover.

 

5. TREATMENT OF INJURED GREVY’S ZEBRA

Date: 22/10/17

Species: Grevy’s zebra

Sex: Female

Age: Adult

Location: Lewa Wildlife Conservancy

History

The female adult Grevy’s had a large septic avulsion wound on the rump over the entire right gluteal aspect. The animal was however grazing and had a calm demeanor.

Chemical immobilization and physical examination

It was immobilized using 6mg of Etorphine hcl and 80mg of Azaperone tartarate at 1429 hrs and went down on sternal recumbency at 1433 hrs. The wound was cleaned and disinfected with water and dilute chlorhexidine, it was then debrided using a scalpel blade and hydrogen peroxide then flushed with clean water.

Povidone iodine soaked swabs were used to further disinfect the wound. The wound was smeared with green clay to accelerate wound healing.AmoxicillinTrihydate and Dexamethasone was also injected by intramuscular route.  Anesthesia was reversed at 1449 hrs using 120 mg of Naltrexone hcl intravenously and the animal was up in a minute

Prognosis

Fair

6. POST MORTEM EXAMINATION OF AN ELEPHANT

Date: 22/10/17

Species: Elephant

Sex: Female

Age: Adult

Location: Lewa Wildlife Conservancy

History

The adult female elephant carcass was bloated and decomposed with vaginal prolapse. The carcass was rolled over for external examination and no injuries were observed eliminating any possibility of traumatic fall or poaching.

The tusks were also intact. The elephant was observed to be unwell a few days earlier in the company of its herd members and was also very old.

Conclusion

The elephant died of natural causes associated with old age.

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