The Mara Mobile Veterinary Unit

Field Report - August 2009

 Return to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Website

Summary
The veterinary activities were successful during the month of August, the veterinary unit in Mara managed to attend to all the reported cases in Mara and Naivasha areas. Some of the cases attended to include an adult female elephant which had a fractured femur bone of right hind leg in Olare-Orok wildlife conservancy in Mara, a lion treated of severe bite wounds on the face in Amboseli and treatment of a snared and injured elephants in Amboseli National park.
Postmortem report of an elephant that died in Olare-Orok conservancy in Masai Mara
There was a report of an adult female elephant that was injured and was unable to walk in Olare Orok Wildlife Conservancy. The conservancy is located on the North Western side of Masai Mara National Reserve. The elephant had a female calf of about 7 months old. The elephant was anaesthetized by darting using 16mgs of etorphine hydrochloride and the injury examined. It was diagnosed with a complete closed fracture of femur bone of the right hind leg.

the calf next to her mother  darting the mother

capturing the calf  the suspected bullet hole in the mothers upper  thigh


Rescue of the calf and postmortem examination
The next day the elephant was anaesthetized and then euthanized, the calf was physically captured using ropes and then tranqillized using 20mgs of Azaperone (Stressnil) to minimize struggle. The calf was later flown to David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust elephant orphanage in Nairobi for care and upbringing.
Postmortem examination of the elephant revealed a complete and closed mid-shaft fracture of the right femur bone, there was also a small, deep wound with fresh haemorrhages on the lateral side of the fractured femur, the cause of the injury was not ascertained.
 
Treatment of a lion (Panthera leo) in Amboseli National park
Lions are very much prone to traumatic injuries or bite wounds while hunting for food, or fighting each other for a mate. They often sustain fractures or severe wounds and may even die in some instances. The adult male lion named ‘Kip’ in Amboseli was reported to have sustained severe bite wounds on the face and head, it was in accompany of two other lioness, and it was in a painful situation that required veterinary attention. The vet team managed to find it and it was successfully captured and treated for the injuries. It also had a GIS collar on the neck for monitoring its movements and involvement in human or livestock conflict cases, the collar was also replaced with a new one.

lion being darted  lion during treatment

lion after treatment  lion after treatment

Chemical restrain
The lion was anaesthetized using 380mgs of Xylazine Hcl combined with 380mgs of Ketamine Hcl, it was darted on the left thigh and became recumbent after about 10 minutes. It was then blindfolded and transferred to a cool shade from where it was examined and treated.
Examination and treatment
The lion was in a good body condition and the vital physiological parameters were monitored and recorded as follows;
Respiration rate 28 cycles/minute, deep and regular, Pulse rate 74 beats/minute, strong and regular, body temperature of 38 degrees Celsius, buccal, conjuctiva and anal mucosal membranes had pink normal colour, capillary refill time (CRT) was 2 seconds. External parasites like ticks and lion flies were found on the skin.
The lion had sustained injuries on the eyelids, face, neck and shoulder regions, it had lacerative wounds penetrating into the muscles, inflammation and swelling of the head region and eye lids was evident.
 
Treatment
The wounds were well debrided using hydrogen peroxide and treated by tincture of iodine applied topically. The lion was further treated using antibiotics (Betamox), multivitamins and dexamethasone. Eyes were well treated with Opticlox eye ointment to prevent desiccation and infection. An oxytetracycline spray was also applied onto all the wounds to repel the flies and enhance wound healing process.
Samples collection
Blood samples were collected in EDTA coated tubes and plain tubes coated with clot retractor and kept in a cool box, tissue samples kept in ethanol solution and ectoparasites such as ticks and lion flies collected and stored in 70% ethanol. These samples were then processed and stored in KWS lab for further analysis and for future reference.
Anaesthesia Revival
The animal was revived from anaesthesia after about 45 minutes using 20mgs of Atipamezole Hcl administered intramuscularly, it took about 8 minutes to rise up and walk away. Prognosis was good because there was no much infection and it had not developed septiceamia, it also had good appetite.
 Treatment of an injured male elephant in Amboseli National park
This was a case of an adult male elephant which had a deep wound on the medial side of the left front leg, the wound was still fresh and was suspected to have been caused by an arrow. The animal was sighted and traced by a team from elephant research project in Amboseli until it was treated.

Elephant with arrow wound on the leg  Elephant with arrow wound on the leg after treatment


Chemical immobilization and treatment
We managed to capture the elephant by darting from a vehicle using 15mgs of etorphine Hcl and 1500 i.u of hyaluronidase; it went recumbent after about 5 minutes. All the wounds were well cleaned using a lot of water draining all the cumulated pus from the lower abdomen and then debrided using 10% hydrogen peroxide and topical application of tincture of iodine. Oxytetracycline antibiotic spray was then applied, and a further intramuscular administration of long-acting antibiotics and dexamethasone provided.
 
The elephant had a small wound on the fractured leg which had a profuse fresh hemorrhage, the wound was probed using long forceps but no foreign material was found. The animal had poor prognosis and no chances of recovering from the fracture due to heavy weight and inability to access water and feeds in the wild.
 
Removal of a snare and treatment of an elephant in Kimana ranch.
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.

snared elephant  snared elephant

snared elephant  snared elephant

snared elephant

Chemical immobilization and treatment
 
The elephant was captured by darting from a vehicle using 12mgs of etorphine Hcl and 1000 i.u of hyaluronidase; it went recumbent after about 7 minutes and the wire was cut off using a wire cutter. The wound caused by the snare was cleaned and debrided using water and 10% hydrogen peroxide, 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. It was then revived from anaesthesia and released back to the wild; it was still weak and reluctant to move due to pain from the wound.
 
Prognosis
The elephant had good chances of healing after removal of the snare and treatment but it will require a repeat treatment after two weeks to enhance quick healing.
Conclusion
The Central Rift veterinary unit through the support of Kenya Wildlife Service and the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) continue to respond to as many animals as possible both in the Mara ecosystem and other parts of Central Rift region. During the month of August, two elephants were successfully treated, a lion and rescue of an elephant calf whose mother sustained a fracture that could not heal.
 
Reported by; Dr. Domnic Mijele
Through; HVS-KWS
Distribution List;
DDBR&M, DDC&WS, DDS, AD-CR, SAD-BR&M, SAD-P & R, H-Other species, SW-NAROK,
SRS-CR, DSWT.