The Mara Mobile Veterinary Unit

Field Report - January 2010

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Summary

During the month of January 2010, the KWS Central Rift veterinary unit based in Maasai Mara attended to all the reported cases in Maasai Mara area and Ruma National park. Some of the cases attended to include the desnaring and treatment of an adult female Rothschild giraffe in Ruma National park, treatment of a lion with extensive injuries on the face and a postmortem examination of a lioness that died near Musiara gate in Maasai Mara.

Other activities include the Bovine tuberculosis disease surveillance in various wildlife species in Maasai Mara. During this month, four (4) adult African buffaloes comprising of 3 females and 1 male at Simba area within Maasai Mara National Reserve were captured by darting and tested by bovid-STAT-PAK test to determine the disease status, they all tested negative using STAT-PAK test.

There have been heavy rains in Maasai Mara area during the months of December and early January 2010, this marked the end of the previous prolonged drought; the pasture and water availability has improved. Cases of human-wildlife conflict have drastically reduced because there is enough pasture in the community areas and no more livestock incursion into the reserve. As a result, many wildlife species including buffaloes, elands, giraffes and elephants have regained their body condition and are beginning to breed normally.

Treatment and removal of a snare from a Rothschild giraffe in Ruma National park

This was an adult female giraffe in Nyadenda area within Ruma National park; it had been sighted with a tight wire snare on the fetlock joint of the left hind leg. The wire was so tight and had cut through the muscles causing a traumatic injury to the giraffe.  The wound was swollen and very painful as the animal attempted to walk, the giraffe had grown weak and was in poor body condition, it could be seen limping with a lot of pain and not putting much weight on the affected leg. The veterinary team decided to capture and treat the animal before the injury advanced.

Chemical immobilization

The giraffe was then captured by chemical immobilization through darting using 13mgs of etorphine hydrochloride combined with 40mgs of Xylazine hydrochloride on the left thigh. It took about 5 minutes to become recumbent.

The giraffe is darted  The immobilised giraffe

The snare embedded in the giraffes leg  The snare wound after treatment

The giraffe awake after the reversal drug is administered

After the giraffe went down, the wire was then immediately cut off using a wire cutter and the inflicted wound treated topically using hydrogen peroxide and a tincture of iodine then sprayed with oxytetracycline spray. The wound was already infected and had some maggots though the animal had not developed septiceamia. Blood samples were obtained from the jugular vein that will be analyzed in the lab for health monitoring purposes.

Anaesthesia revival

After treatment the animal was revived from anaesthesia using 5mgs of Atipamezole hydrochloride combined with 36mgs of diprenorphine hydrochloride administered through the jugular vein. It woke up after about 2 minutes and it joined the rest of the herd nearby.

Prognosis

Prognosis was good after removing the wire which was constantly irritating the wound. Treatment was done in good time, even though the giraffe was already in poor body condition it still had better chances of recovery from the injury.

Postmortem examination of a lioness

This was a case of an adult lioness that was found dead near Musiara gate in Maasai Mara National reserve. The carcass was found by Ol-Choro-Oiroua conservancy rangers who were patrolling that area, the rest of the pride were still nearby. The rangers reported immediately to the Mara veterinary team to perform a postmortem examination and determine a possible cause of death. There were reports of rangers who saw the lioness staggering and swaying the previous day before it died.

Postmortem findings

The lioness was in a very good body condition, no external body injuries, it was also in the last trimester of pregnancy. Thoracic and abdominal cavities were opened using a sharp knife; there were no signs of internal organ injuries and no sign of infection, three fully formed fetuses were found dead in the uterus.

The vertebral column was examined and found to be more flexible at the lumbo-sacral joint; the lioness had suffered from a physical injury of the vertebral column leading to vertebral disc prolapse or displacement. The displaced vertebral disc impinged on the spinal chord causing the para-lumber nerve paralysis leading to paralysis of the hind quarters and death after sometime.

Postmortem examinimation of a lioness  Conducting the postmoretm

Samples collection and disposal of the carcass

Stomach contents and intestinal contents, liver and kidney samples were collected and frozen for toxicological analysis just in case the lioness suffered from any form of toxicity. Different lymph nodes including retropharyngeal, mesenteric and mediastinal lymph nodes were collected and frozen for bacteriological culture for bovine tuberculosis surveillance. The carcass was then disposed by deep burial.

Treatment of an injured male lion in Koiyaki-Lemek Conservancy Maasai Mara

One of the adult male lions in Koiyaki-Lemek was reported to have sustained severe injuries on the face and abdomen, it was found lying down in accompany of two other male lions, and it was in a very painful situation that required an immediate veterinary attention. The wounds were suspected to be bite wounds inflicted by other lions during territorial fights or while fighting for a mate. The veterinary team from Maasai Mara responded in good time to treat the animal.

Chemical restrain

The lion was captured using 450mgs of Xylazine Hcl combined with 450mgs of Ketamine Hcl, it was darted on the left thigh and it took about 8 minutes. It was then blindfolded and transferred to a cool shade under a tree from where it was examined and treated.

Examination and treatment

The lion was in a very good body condition and the vital physiological parameters were monitored and recorded as follows;

Respiration rate 26 cycles/minute, deep and regular, Pulse rate 80 beats/minute, strong and regular, body temperature was 37 degrees Celsius, all the mucosal membranes had pink normal colour, capillary refill time (CRT) was 2 seconds. It had some external parasites like ticks and lion flies on the skin.

The lion had sustained serious injuries on the left side of the face around the parotid region, it had deep extensive wound penetrating into the muscles with a lot of pus oozing from the wound. The wound was so painful such that the lion preferred lying down most of the time and not able to hunt effectively, it therefore depended on other lions for food.

The lion had extensive injuriose on the lateral side of the face  The immobilised lion

The wound before treatment  Cleaning the wound

The wound after treatment

Treatment

The wound was well debrided using a lot of clean water and then hydrogen peroxide; it was also topically treated using a tincture of iodine applied on it. The animal was further treated using antibiotics (Amoxycillin), multivitamins and dexamethasone. Eyes were well treated with Opticlox eye ointment to prevent desiccation and infection. All other small bite wounds on the abdomen and shoulder were sprayed by oxytetracycline spray.  

Samples collection

Blood samples were collected in EDTA coated tubes and plain tubes coated with clot retractor and kept in a cool box, tissue and hair samples kept in ethanol solution and ectoparasites such as ticks and lion flies collected and stored in 70% ethanol. These samples were processed and stored in KWS lab for further analysis and for health monitoring purposes.

Anaesthesia revival

The lion was revived from anaesthesia after about 45 minutes using 20mgs of Atipamezole Hcl administered intramuscularly, it took about 15 minutes to rise up, it was still in pain and unable to hunt but would be supported by the other male lion that stayed with it.

Prognosis

The prognosis was good after treatment because it had not developed septiceamia and still had good appetite and good body condition. It was to be monitored on a daily basis by security rangers who would report on its progress regularly to the veterinarian just in case it would require further treatment.

Bovine tuberculosis disease surveillance in Buffaloes of Maasai Mara

Bovine tuberculosis is a zoonotic disease caused by Mycobacterium bovis; it infects a wide range of species and is increasingly being recognized as an important pathogen of free-ranging African wildlife (Keet et al., 2001). In Kenya, the prevalence of bovine tuberculosis in wildlife is still unknown (Tarara et. al, 1985), even though there have been reported cases in baboons Papio cynocephalus in the Maasai Mara National Game reserve, (Tarara et al, 1985). 

The disease has also been reported in lions of Serengeti National park in Tanzania (S. Cleaveland, et, al 2002) which borders Maasai Mara on the southern side and chances of disease transmission between these two wildlife conservation areas is quite high because of high concentration of livestock and wildlife and due to frequent wildlife-livestock interaction. Therefore there is need for investigation of the prevalence of bovine tuberculosis in wildlife and livestock of Kenya, particularly in Maasai Mara and Amboseli areas which are at the Kenya-Tanzania border and characterized by cross-border wildlife movements and livestock trade.

STAT-PAK testing of African buffaloes in Mara

Four (4) adult African buffaloes comprising of 3 females and 1 male at Simba area within Maasai Mara National Reserve were captured by darting and tested by bovid-STAT-PAK test. They were aged between 7-12 years and were in a herd of about 200 buffaloes. The buffaloes were captured by darting from a vehicle using 6mgs of etorphine hydrochloride combined with 30mgs of xylazine hydrochloride.

Whole blood was drawn from the jugular vein using vaccutainer needles into EDTA-coated vaccutainer tubes. Age, body condition and GPS location was then recorded. EDTA blood was used to run the STAT-PAK test according to VetTB stat-Pak manufacturer’s procedure manual. Using STAT-PAK test, the buffaloes tested negative for bovine tuberculosis, these results will be confirmed by further bacteriological tests.

An immobilised buffao for testing  An immobilised buffalo

Collecting a blood sample  Collecting a blood sample for bovine tuberculosis testing

Collecting a blood sample from an immobilised buffalo

Revival of anaesthesia

After collection of blood samples, the buffaloes were revived from anaesthesia using 24mgs of diprenorphine Hcl combined with 5mgs of atipamezole Hcl administered through the jugular vein and released to join the rest of the herd.

Conclusion

The Mara veterinary unit responded to all reported cases of sick and injured wildlife species within Maasai Mara and Ruma National park. During the month of January, 2010, various wildlife species including lions and giraffes were treated for injuries of varying extents. The unit also initiated bovine tuberculosis disease surveillance in wildlife of Maasai Mara ecosystem.

Kenya Wildlife Service greatly appreciates the support of David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) towards provision of prompt veterinary services to wildlife in Maasai Mara ecosystem, Central Rift region and Ruma National park.

Report by: Dr. Domnic Mijele