The Mara Mobile Veterinary Unit

Field Report - March 2009

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Summary

The veterinary activities were quite successful during the month of March, two elephants with serious wounds caused by snares were rescued in Mara, a pregnant Black rhino with a snare cutting through the lips and nostrils was traced for days until it was rescued. Other cases of zebras with snare in Naivasha area were also attended to. Disease surveillance activities in Ruma National park and Masai Mara were successfully carried out during the month. We acknowledge the support of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) towards provision of veterinary services to wildlife in Mara and other parts of Central Rift.

Removal of a wire snare and treatment of an elephant calf along Mara River in Mara Triangle

This was a case of one year old female calf which had a very tight snare around the neck, the wire was cutting through the throat causing a deep severe wound which was already infected and full of maggots. The calf had lost much of its body condition, grown weak and preferred lying down most of the time.

Both the mother and the calf were anaesthetized simultaneously by darting from a vehicle and on foot in order to save the life of the calf. The snare was successfully removed and the wound treated appropriately. Both the animals were then revived from anaesthesia and released.

the calf sustained a deep wound from the snare  The vet cuts the snare off

The calf with the snare around his head  snared elephant calf having the snare wound cleaned

The calf with the mother

Prognosis

The calf had been extensively injured by the wire cutting right through the neck muscles almost to the bone. It will have to be monitored closely to see how it responds after the first treatment, if need be the treatment can be repeated later to improve its chances of healing.

African swine fever (ASF) disease surveillance in bush pigs of Ruma National park

The study involved capture of bush pigs by use of capture nets, tranquilization using Azaperone 40mg/ml (Stressnil) and collection of serum and blood samples to be analysed for ASF antibodies and ASF virus isolation. Some of the bush pigs previously fitted with radio-collars were also tracked to ascertain the levels of interactions between domestic pigs and bush pigs. This is a collaborative study between KWS and ILRI. Its main objectives are to improve the epidemiological knowledge of ASF in East, Southern and Central Africa with a possibility of developing ASF vaccine to be used in controlling the disease.                          

Bush pigs are nocturnal animals which hide in burrows during the day and only come out to the open at night while searching for food, they mainly feed on gabbages, arrow roots, potatoes and cassavas. The team only managed to capture them at night within Lambwe forest just at the edge of Ruma Park.

Three female bush pigs were captured and sampled during the month of March, 2009. They were one adult and two sub-adults. The samples so far collected from these animals will be delivered to ASF reference laboratory in Spain for PCR and Serological tests.

wild pig captured

 

treatment of the wild pigs

Anaesthetization and ear-notching of a problematic leopard in Nakuru.

It was an adult female leopard that was baited and trapped from people’s homesteads around the park. The leopard was successfully anaesthetized from inside the cage by darting using 100mgs of Ketamine hydrochloride combined with 0.75mgs of medetomidine hydrochloride. The drug took effect after about 6 minutes. All the vital physiological parameters were recorded and it was kept under stable anaesthesia until the end of the operation.

It was ear-notched with surgical blades attached to blade holders and haemostats used to control bleeding. The ear-notches will be used to identify the animal if it invades livestock bomas in future, then it may be relocated to another conservation area far from Nakuru. Blood and tissue samples were also collected and submitted to the lab for processing, analysis and storage. The animal was then revived using 5mgs of atipamezole hydrochloride, it took 10 minutes to rise up from anaesthesia. Later on it was released back to the park at a convenient place far from residential areas.    

treatment of the leopard

 

treatment of the leopard

                                  

Removal of a wire snare and treatment of a common zebra (Equuis burchelis) in KARI farm in Naivasha.

This was an adult male zebra with a tight wire snare around the neck and front legs. The zebra was captured by darting and snare removed using a wire cutter, it had not inflicted any visible injury to the animal. It was then revived from anaesthesia and released back to the wild.    

snared Zebra

The vet preparing to treat the snared Zebra

 

The snare is removed from the Zebra's leg

             

Treatment and removal of a snare from a sub-adult female elephant in Ngiro-are area in Mara Triangle. 

The elephant was sighted with a tight snare encircling the left front leg, the wound caused by the snare was already infected, full of pus exudates and tissue debris. The elephant had stayed with the snare on for long time and the wound had developed granulomatous tissues in an attempt to heal but healing was not possible due to constant irritation by the snare.

It was successfully captured by darting and the wire removed. The wound was further cleaned and debrided, then treated by topical application of tincture of iodine and oxytetracycline spray. Other treatments by parenteral administration of long-acting antibiotics and antinflammatories were instituted. 

Snared Elephant

snared elephant getting treatment from the Vet

snared elephant

                         

Treatment and removal of a snare from an adult female Black rhino (Diceros bicornis) in Mara Triangle along Mara River near Governors lodge. 

The rhino was sighted with a fresh cut wound on the upper lip and nostril. The wound was still fresh and bleeding, on further examination, it was found with a tight snare cutting across the upper lips and nostrils. It later on disappeared into the thick bush and could not be sighted for two days.

Later on it came to the open from where it was darted from a vehicle, the wire was removed and the wound treated. The rhino was successfully captured, desnared and treated then released.

the snared black Rhino

 

the rhino's face had a deep wound from the snare

Prognosis

The wound was not yet infected by the time it was treated and has better chances of healing fast. The rhino was still in good body condition and with good appetite.

Investigations on cases of mange infestation in Mara ecosystem.

As part of the on-going investigations on cases of mange infestations in cheetahs, Thompson’s gazelles, wildebeests and other wildlife in Mara, observations of animals with skin lesions were made and skin scrapping samples collected for laboratory analysis.

Mange is a contagious skin disease caused by mites, it is a threat to the survival of cheetahs and lions in the wild and Thompson’s gazelles act as the source of the parasites to cheetahs. The parasites are transmitted to cheetahs through contact with gazelles particularly when cheetahs hunt or feed on these gazelles.

Conclusion

Most of the veterinary activities in Central Rift region were quite successful, the wild dog samples will be submitted to the laboratory for a more accurate diagnosis. Cases of wildlife injuries due to human-wildlife conflicts are still on the rise in Mara and Naivasha areas. Snaring of giraffes and common zebras in Naivasha is still a great threat to wildlife conservation in the area. The Central Rift veterinary unit through the support of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) makes every effort to rescue as many animals as possible both in Mara ecosystem and other parts of Central Rift. The unit still requires a laboratory technologist and a refrigerator for storing biological samples from the field before being submitted to lab. 

Reported by: Dr. Domnic Mijele