THE MARA MOBILE VETERINARY UNIT
REPORT FOR - August 2008

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Introduction

The veterinary activities in the Central Rift region and Masai Mara went on successfully during the month of August, 2008. Some of the cases attended to include treatment of elephants for various reasons in Masai Mara and rescue of animals entangled with snares in Naivasha area. Others include an injured black rhino treated in Lake Nakuru National park, cheetahs infested with mange treated and sampled in Masai Mara. The veterinary unit still lacks a refrigerator for storing biological samples, lack of internet access and inadequate power supply are some of the challenges facing the vet unit in Mara.

Treatment of an elephant with an arrow wound on the rump in Mara

This was a case of an adult male elephant that had a deep wound on the left rump, the wound was already infected with pus discharges. The case was reported to the veterinary unit by the management of Olare Orok Conservancy. After searching for sometime, the animal was found in a herd of about 20 elephants in an area full of shrubs in Olare Orok conservancy. A decision was made to capture and treat the elephant because the wound was getting infected and seemingly very painful.

Chemical immobilization and capture

The elephant was captured by darting using 18mgs of etorphine hydrochloride combined with 1500 i.u hyaluronidase. It was darted using Dan-inject dart-gun propelled from about 30 meters. It took about 7 minutes to become recumbent. Unfortunately it went down lying on the affected side making the treatment almost impossible. The vet team had to seek assistance of another Land cruiser vehicle and straps to help turn the elephant so that the wound could be accessed for treatment. Several attempts were made to turn the elephant until finally we managed to turn it.

Physical examination and treatment

The wound was examined and probed by gauze swabs attached to a long forceps. Most of the soft tissues were affected and the wound pierced through to the femur bone. It was full of tissue debris and pus accumulation. A lot of pus was expressed out and the wound cleaned with water then debrided with 10% hydrogen peroxide and later treated with a tincture of iodine solution. There was no foreign material in the wound; hence it had good chances of healing after the treatment. 

The immobilized bull

Checking to make sure there are no foreign objects in the wound  Cleaning the wound

The arrow wound after it is cleaned and treated

The bull back on its feet after treatment

 

Other treatments included administration of long-acting (20%) oxytetracycline intramuscularly and multivitamins. The wound was also sprayed with oxytetracycline spray to keep off flies and enhance healing.

It was then revived from anaesthesia using 60mgs of Diprenorphine hydrochloride administered through the ear-vein.

Rescue of a zebra foal in Naivasha

A zebra foal of a bout one month old was found by Naivasha prison warders near KWS Game ranch, it was weak and unable to move and the mother could not be seen. The warders informed the KWS warden at Naivasha who went and rescued the foal and put it in small room in the station. The vet team while attending to other animals in Naivasha area went to attend to the foal. It was later collected by KWS capture team who transferred it to Nairobi orphanage for further care.

The young zebra foal  The young zebra foal with the vet Dr. Mijele

An adult female zebra was sighted with a wire snare round the neck; the animal was reported by KWS rangers at the Hell’s gate National park who also assisted the vet team to look for it until it was found. It was then immobilized by darting using 5mgs of etorphine hydrochloride combined with 60mgs of Xylazine hydrochloride and it took about 5 minutes to become recumbent. After it was fully anaesthetized and went recumbent, the eyes were covered by a blind-fold and water poured onto it to help control the body temperature.

The zebra had a wire snare around its neck

Removing the snare from around the zebra's neck

Helping the zebra up after the snare is removed

The wire was cut using a wire cutter, it was still loose and had not inflicted any injury to the zebra. The animal was then revived from anaesthesia using 12mgs of Diprenorphine hydrochloride combined with 5mgs of Atipamezole hydrochloride.

Most zebras and other wild animals do pass through Hell’s gate to Longonot Park and through Kedong ranch in search of water and pasture. Along the way, these animals are trapped with snares set by local residents in search of game meat, occasionally when such cases are reported to KWS veterinary team, the affected animals are captured and snares removed.

Treatment of an adult female elephant in Koiyaki Lemek – Mara

An adult female elephant with a two year old calf was sighted in Koiyaki with a deep and severe wound on right hind limb. The elephant had difficulties in walking and could be seen lying down most of the time in a thick vegetative area near a small stream of water. The veterinary team responded in good time to attend to the elephant which was being monitored by Ol-Choro-Oirua group ranch rangers.

Chemical immobilization and capture

The elephant was captured by darting using 16mgs of etorphine hydrochloride combined with 1500 i.u hyaluronidase. It was darted on foot using Dan-inject dart-gun propelled from about 10 meters. It took about 5 minutes to go down. The calf refused to leave the mother and several attempts to scare it away using vehicles was not successful. A decision was made to immobilize the calf so that the mother could be handled safely.

The calf was also darted on foot using 3mgs of etorphine hydrochloride and it took 5 minutes to become fully narcotized. One capture rangers was assigned to monitor the calf while the mother was being treated.

The immobilized calf is monitored

Anaesthesia monitoring

The vital physiological parameters such as respiration, body temperature and pulse rate were assessed and found normal. A lot of water was poured onto the animal to help regulate its body temperature while it was being treated, eyes were covered with an Opticlox eye ointment to prevent desiccation and eye infections.

Physical examination and treatment

The wound was examined and found to have a small opening on the outside but was extending deep into the muscles and cartilages of the fetlock joint of the left hind limb. There was no foreign material in the wound but there was a lot of pus and tissue debris accumulation. It was then cleaned, pus expressed out and well debrided using 10% Hydrogen peroxide and a tincture of iodine solution applied on it. Other treatments included administration of antibiotics parenterally. 

The elephant is darted

The wound before it is cleaned and treated  Checking the wound to remove any debris

Cleaning the wound to remove all the pus  The wound is sprayed with an antibiotic

Other treatments included administration of long-acting (20%) oxytetracycline intramuscularly and multivitamins. The wound was also sprayed with oxytetracycline spray to keep off flies and enhance healing.

Anaesthesia revival

The calf was revived first then followed by the mother in that order, this was to make sure that the calf wakes up early to find its mother. It was revived using 12mgs of Diprenorphine hydrochloride administered through the ear-vein and just before it woke up the mother was also revived.

Mother and calf are reunited

The mother was then revived from anaesthesia using 48mgs of Diprenorphine hydrochloride administered through the superficial ear-vein. Both the calf and the mother rose up and joined each other as required.                                       

TREATMENT OF A BLACK RHINO (Diceros bicornis) IN LAKE NAKURU NATIONAL PARK.

Introduction

Lake Nakuru National park is one of the Kenya's most important rhino breeding sanctuaries; it has both black and white rhinos free ranging in the park. The KWS veterinary department has always been contacted whenever there is a case that requires veterinary attention within the park. Rhinos in the park have been treated for injuries sustained from territorial fights or injuries inflicted by foreign materials such as sharp objects. Recently the park management and rhino surveillance team reported to the veterinary department that one of the male black rhinos called 'Rajan' was seen limping and was visibly in deep pain, it therefore required an immediate veterinary attention. The Central Rift veterinary unit based in Masai Mara received the report and managed to attend to the rhino at the right time.

Chemical restrain and capture

On the day of treatment (Tuesday, 19th August, 2008), the rhino was spotted by rangers on patrol and a light aircraft at around 11.00am at the edge of thickly vegetation area near Naishi Rhino base. Preparations were quickly made by the veterinary team on the ground to capture, examine and treat the rhino as required. The animal was tracked and darted on foot, and then later a KWS light aircraft was used to monitor its movement from above to help know where the animal would go down due to narcosis.

The drugs used for capture of the animal were 5mgs of Etorphine hydrochloride combined with 80mgs of Xylazine hydrochloride in a Dan-inject dart. After darting the animal ran for about two kilometers and finally it became recumbent. Immediately after it went down, 10mgs of Nalorphine hydrochloride was administered through the ear-vein to help improve the respiration rate.

It was then blindfolded and roped down to lateral recumbency; eyes were covered by an eye ointment to prevent eye desiccation and infection. It was then dowsed with much water to help control the body temperature, other vital physiological parameters such as respiratory rate and heart rate were taken to ensure that the animal was in a stable anaesthesia before treatment commenced.

The darted rhino

Pouring water on the rhino to help control its body temperature

Spraying the superficial wounds with an antibitoic  The rhino had a deep penetrating wound on the foot pad of the right hind limb

Examination and treatment

The rhino was examined and found to have a deep penetrating wound on the foot pad of the right hind limb; the wound was still fresh with minimal infection and was suspected to have been caused by a sharp object (probably a tree stamp) pricking through the foot pad. The wound was then treated using hydrogen peroxide and topical application of tincture of iodine and antibiotic spray. Other long-acting antibiotics, multivitamins and Dexamethasone were administered intramuscularly as part of the treatment. All other superficial wounds on the skin caused by filarial worms were examined and sprayed by antibiotics.

Revival from anaesthesia

After treatment, the animal was revived from anaesthesia using 24mgs of Diprenorphine hydrochloride combined with 10mgs of Atipamezole hydrochloride administered through the superficial ear-vein. It took about 3 minutes to rise up and it took off to the bush feeling much relieved.

Prognosis

The prognosis was good and the animal had good chances of quick recovery, although the wound was deep and might have affected the superficial nerves hence causing much pain to the animal, it was not yet infected with bacterias hence better chances of healing. The rhino was also in good body condition, good appetite and took water normally. The rhino surveillance team and the veterinary unit will continue monitoring the animal over a period of time to ensure that it recovers completely.

Black rhinos are one of the endangered species in Kenya and a lot of efforts are put by KWS to ensure their successful breeding and survival in the wild. The KWS veterinary department both at the KWS headquarters and in Mara do respond appropriately on health matters of the rhinos in Lake Nakuru National park and other areas. The cost of transport and drugs used to treat the animals is enormous but it is worth treating these important species that attract most tourists in Kenyan parks and earns the country much revenue.

Treatment of a cheetah infested with sarcoptic mange in Masai Mara.

An adult male cheetah was sighted at Olare Orok conservancy with mange (skin infection) on head, ears, neck and limbs. Both the ears and forehead had become alopecic with lots of scab formation. The lesions were itchy and the animal spent most of time scratching or rubbing itself on trees hence become restless and unable to feed properly. It was reported to the veterinarian by the conservancy management and tourists who saw it in the field. The vet located it at a GPS location S- 01.23.034; E- 035.11.652.

Anaesthetization

The cheetah was darted on the left thigh using 150mgs of Ketamine hydrochloride combined with 150 micrograms of medetomidine hydrochloride. It took about 10 minutes for the drug to take effect. Anaesthesia was smooth with good relaxation of muscles. The animal was immediately blindfolded and transferred to a cool shade for treatment.

Treatment

The animal was treated using 3mls of ivermectin administered subcutaneously, 6mls of Betamox long-acting antibiotic administered intramuscularly and 5mls of multivitamins. Other treatments included application of tincture of iodine and oxytetracycline spray on the skin lesions, both eyes were also covered with Opticlox eye ointment to avoid eye desiccation and infection.

The immobilized cheetah

The cheetah's ears had alot of scabs due to scratching because of mange  The lesions on the ears and head are treated with tincture of iodine

The cheetah's head after treatment  The cheetah back on its feet after treatment

Samples collection

Skin scrapping samples were collected from all the skin lesions and preserved in 70% ethanol solution to be used for parasites isolation and identification. Whole blood was collected in EDTA coated tubes for haematology tests and DNA analysis of other haemoparasites. Tissue samples cut from the ear pinnae and tick parasites were kept in 70% ethanol. Part of blood sample was collected in plain tubes coated with clot retractor and used to extract serum for biochemical and serological tests. All the blood samples were drawn from the femoral vein using a 5ml syringe and 21gauge needle.

Taking a skin sample  Taking a blood sample

Anaesthesia revival and prognosis

The animal was revived after 1hour using 15mgs of Atipamezole hydrochloride administered intramuscularly. It took about 5 minutes to rise up and take off. It had good chances of recovery from mange, this is because it was still in good body condition with good appetite and the lesions were not yet infected with bacteria.

Conclusion

During the month of August the veterinary unit achieved a lot in terms treating different endangered wildlife species in the region, these include black rhinos, cheetahs and even elephants. The veterinary activities are going on successfully in Masai Mara and other parts of Central Rift region. Basic laboratory equipment and laboratory technician are still required to help improve the veterinary services and research activities in the region. There are plans to acquire some basic laboratory equipment in the near future through support from David Shedrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT); we will also need to re-innovate and paint the laboratory rooms and vet offices in Masai Mara and acquire some furniture to make the place fully operational.

Report by: Dr. Domnic Mijele

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