The Mara Mobile Veterinary Unit

Field Report - February 2010

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Summary

During the month of February 2010, the KWS Central Rift veterinary unit was mainly involved in mass capture and translocation of common zebras Equuis burcheli from Soysambu ranch in Naivasha to Amboseli National park. This was meant to re-stock Amboseli and also to help reduce the population density of animals in Soysambu. This will also help to minimize cases of poaching and human-wildlife conflict in Naivasha area.

Some of the veterinary intervention cases attended to include the treatment of an adult male elephant with an injury on the right front leg in Mara Triangle, desnaring and treatment of another elephant near Oloololo gate in Mara Triangle, desnaring and treatment of a common zebra in Kawai area of Mara. The reserve has received heavy rains in December, January and February providing good pasture and water for animals.

Desnaring and treatment of an adult male elephant near Oloololo gate in Mara Triangle

This was a case of an adult male elephant which had a very tight wire snare cutting through the carpal joint of the right front leg. The wire had inflicted a very severe open wound around the leg but there was minimal infection. This elephant was sighted by the County council rangers and the Anne Kent Taylor patrol team near Oloololo gate of Maasai Mara, they immediately informed the KWS veterinarian to attend to it. The animal was already weak and moved with a lot of difficulties because of the painful wound and constant irritation by the wire.

Chemical immobilization, examination and treatment

The elephant was found in a large herd of other elephants in open grassland but they were quickly moving towards a very thick forest along the Mara river. It was darted from a vehicle using 16mgs of etorphine Hcl combined with 1000 i.u, the drug took effect after about 6 minutes and it became recumbent. The animal was dowsed with a lot of water to control its body temperature then the wire was cut using a wire cutter. Then wound was then examined and probed using forceps and gauze swabs, there was no bone or joint infection the wound was only affecting the soft tissues. It was then cleaned using 10% hydrogen peroxide draining all the accumulated pus and tissue debris, then later treated with a tincture of iodine and oxytetracycline spray. Further treatments by intramuscular administration of long-acting oxytetracycline antibiotics were provided. Blood samples were collected for testing of various infections including bovine tuberculosis. 

Cutting the snare

The wound caused by the snare

Revival of anaesthesia

After treatment, the elephant was revived from anaesthesia using 36mgs of diprenorphine hydrochloride administered through the superficial ear-vein. The prognosis was good after treatment because it had not developed any septiceamia. Mara rangers were advised to keep monitoring its progress until full recovery.

Removal of a snare and treatment of a common zebra in Kawai area of Maasai Mara.

This was a case of an adult female zebra that had been sighted with a loose wire snare hanging round its neck. The snare was loose and had not inflicted any injury to the animal even though it was strangling the neck and affecting its movement.

The zebra was captured by darting using 5mgs of etorphine hydrochloride combined with 60mgs of xylazine hydrochloride, it went recumbent after about 10 minutes. The wire was then cut off using a wire cutter, then revived from anaesthesia and released back to the wild after successful rescue. 

Immobilizing the zebra  The snare around the zebras neck

The zebra after the snare is removed

Treatment of an injured sub-adult male elephant in Mara Triangle

This was a case of a sub-adult male elephant which had a deep wound on the medial side of the right front leg, the elephant was sighted in a large herd of elephants just a few kilometers from Oloololo gate. The cause of the injury could not be ascertained. The wound was infected, exuding pus and full of necrotic tissue. It was then captured by darting and treated.

Chemical immobilization, examination and treatment

The elephant was darted from a vehicle using 16mgs of etorphine Hcl combined with 1000 i.u of hyaluronidase, the drug took effect after about 8 minutes and it became recumbent. The wound was then cleaned with a lot of water and gauze swabs to remove all the mud, pus, tissue debris and maggots. It was further cleaned using 10% hydrogen peroxide and drained all the accumulated pus and tissue debris, then later treated with a tincture of iodine and oxytetracycline spray. Further treatments included intramuscular administration of long-acting oxytetracycline antibiotics. Blood samples were also collected and shall be analyzed for health monitoring purposes.

The immobilized elephant  The wounded elephant

The wound after being disinfected

Revival of anaesthesia

After treatment, the elephant was revived from anaesthesia using 36mgs of diprenorphine hydrochloride administered through the ear-vein. It was to be monitored and reported just incase a repeat treatment is required.

Prognosis

The elephant had good prognosis after the treatment because the wound was only affecting the soft tissues and did not extend into the tarsal joint, the wound also had good drainage of pus and other exudates, it had also started developing granulomatous tissues which is a good sign of healing.

Conclusion

During this month, the Mara veterinary unit responded to all reported cases of sick and injured wildlife species within Maasai Mara National Reserve. Two elephants and one zebra were attended to and successfully treated. The unit was also heavily involved in translocation of zebras from Soysambu ranch in Naivasha to Amboseli National park. A study on the prevalence of Bovine tuberculosis in wildlife and livestock of Maasai Mara is still ongoing.

Kenya Wildlife Service acknowledges 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