The Mara Mobile Veterinary Unit
Field Report - May 2010
Return to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
During the month of May, 2010, the Central Rift veterinary unit was greatly involved in laboratory analysis of wildlife serum and tissue samples meant for bovine tuberculosis disease surveillance and research on wildlife species of Maasai Mara. The samples were submitted to Sokoine University of Agriculture in Morogoro, Tanzania and were analyzed in a biosafety tuberculosis laboratory. The tests included the gamma interferon test (Bovigam®) and tissue culture for Mycobacterium bovis infection in animals. Tissue culture for mycobacterial infection is a long-term test that will take 8 – 12 weeks to obtain results.
Other veterinary clinical intervention cases included the treatment of an adult female elephant in Olare Orok wildlife conservancy in Maasai Mara, the elephant had quite extensive severe wounds on the right hind thigh and had difficulties in movement, it was treated twice at an interval of 2 weeks.
The other major exercise was the capture and collaring of 15 resident wildebeests in the wildlife dispersal areas around Maasai Mara National reserve, they were collared in Olare Orok, Ol Morogi, Olkinyei, Olseki and Maji Moto areas. The exercise was meant to map wildebeest conservation areas and to monitor their movement patterns so that their range land can be secured.
Postmortem and investigations was conducted on 3 vultures, 1 hyena and 1 jackal that died in Maji Moto area after feeding on a poisoned sheep carcass. Crop content samples were collected from vultures and submitted to the government chemist for toxicological analysis.
Most wildlife species of Maasai Mara have moved outside the reserve into the dispersal areas to avoid wet conditions and high grass levels in the reserve. This has led to an increase in incidences of human-wildlife conflict in the surrounding community areas with predators attacking livestock and herbivorous species destroying crops.
Treatment of an injured female elephant in Olare Orok Wildlife Conservancy.
This was a case of an adult female elephant which had a severe extensive wound on the lateral side of the right hind leg. The wound was quite infected and full of maggots; it was suspected that the animal had been shot by poisonous arrows which caused an acute inflammation and cellulitis that led to these extensive wounds on the hind leg and the back. This elephant was sighted by the Olare Orok wildlife conservancy rangers who immediately informed the vet to attend to it. It was under a great pain, weak, emaciated and moved with a lot of difficulties. It had the risk of developing septiceamia.
Chemical immobilization, examination and treatment
The elephant was sighted in an open plain within Olare Orok Conservancy, it was then darted from a vehicle using 15mgs of etorphine Hcl and 1500 i.u, the drug took effect after about 6 minutes and it became recumbent.
The wounds were then cleaned with a lot of water and gauze swabs removing all the mud, maggots and loose tissue debris. The wounds were also probed using long tissue forceps in an attempt to find out how deep it penetrated into the tissues. It was ascertained that the wounds were quite superficial and did not penetrate into the muscles. The wounds were then cleaned using 10% hydrogen peroxide draining all the accumulated pus and tissue debris, then treated using a topical application of a tincture of iodine and oxytetracycline spray. It was also covered with green clay powder which maintains wound cleanliness, repel flies and enhance pus drainage.
Further treatments by intramuscular administration of long-acting oxytetracycline antibiotics, multivitamins and dexamethasone were provided. Blood samples were collected from the superficial ear-veins for testing of various infections including bovine tuberculosis.
Revival of anaesthesia
After treatment, the elephant was revived from anaesthesia using 48mgs of diprenorphine hydrochloride administered through the superficial ear-vein. It was to be monitored closely by the Olare Orok rangers who reported its progress daily to the veterinarian for further treatment.
Repeat treatment and prognosis
The elephant was treated again after about 2 weeks, the wounds had started healing and massive granulomatous tissues covered the wound, this was a good sign of wound healing. Prognosis was better after repeat treatment and the animal seemed more energetic than it was before.
Wildebeests collaring in Maasai Mara ecosystem
Fifteen (15) wildebeests comprising of 5 males and 10 females were captured by darting and fitted with GSM/satellite collars. These are resident wildebeests in Olare Orok conservancy, Olmorogi conservancy, Koiyaki conservancy, Olkinyei and Maji Motto areas (generally in the North-Eastern part of Mara ecosystem). Participants in this exercise included KWS veterinary team, scientists from African conservation centre and scientists from Colorado State University.
The main objective of this exercise was to map the distribution and movement patterns of wildebeests in Maasai Mara ecosystem, this information will then be used to advise KWS and other policy makers on areas to be secured for wildebeests conservation.
The wildebeests were captured by darting from a vehicle using 6mgs of etorphine hydrochloride combined with 30mgs of xylazine hydrochloride. The collars were fitted on the neck and blood samples collected from the jugular vein for diseases surveillance and monitoring. Stat-Pak® test was used to analyse the serum samples for bovine tuberculosis infection. All the wildebeest samples tested negative for bovine tuberculosis infection.
Treatment of a Lame Black Rhino at Nakuru National Park
Nakuru rhinos are products of 20 rhinos Introduced from Solio ranch and an Indigenous female that existed at the park for many years. The Lame male rhino (Name Kariuki) was born in Nakuru National Park. The animal Identity is No.28 and is aged 8 years.
Capture and Restraint
Capture took place at GPS location 37 M 0176522, UTM 9955732, Elevation 1766 metres above sea level. The rhino was captured chemically using 5mg Etorphine and 90mg Azaperone. The rhino was covered with a blindfold before going down and even while in sedation.
Physical Examination and Treatment
On Physical examination the animal was realized to have suffered a muscle sprain of the right hind limb and had no external injuries. A Broad -spectrum antibiotic was administered through intramuscular route (100ml of ox tetracycline of 20 %) together with 15ml of dexamethasone. Filarial wounds were debrided using Hydrogen peroxide and finally irrigated with Iodine. Antibiotic Wound spray was also sprayed on the external wounds.
The animal was revived using 3ml of diprenorphine and woke up after five minutes. The animal was agitated and ready to attack after revival but later cooled down and moved away from the capture site. The prognosis for the rhino’s recovery is very good.
During the month of May, 2010, the unit responded to all reported cases of sick and injured wildlife species within Maasai Mara National Reserve as highlighted in the report above. Mara area has received quite substantial amount of rainfall in the past and most wildlife species have moved out to the unprotected dispersal areas, this has led to an increase of human-wildlife conflict incidences.
Kenya Wildlife Service greatly 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