The Mara Mobile Veterinary Unit

Field Report - April 2011

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Summary

During the month of April, 2011, the Central Rift veterinary unit managed to attend to all the reported cases during the month. These included an adult male elephant with severe injuries on the left abdomen in Siana area, a male buffalo treated for bilateral fluid accumulation on the elbow joints and rescue of a one day old buffalo calf near Sarova game lodge in Maasai Mara. Intensive joint security patrols and community education and awareness on wildlife conservation are required to reverse the trend of human-wildlife conflict that results in loss of several wildlife species in these areas. Detailed reports of all the animal cases attended to during the month of March, 2011 are highlighted in the report below.

Treatment of an adult male elephant with severe injuries on the abdomen in Siana Springs, Maasai Mara.

The elephant was sighted with quite severe abdominal injuries on the left side of the abdomen; it was reported to the Mara veterinary unit by Siana conservancy game scouts who found it grazing alone in a thick bushy area near Siana airstrip. The elephant could barely move and was in a lot of pain, not able to feed adequately. It had started loosing much of its body condition due to the injuries and required urgent veterinary clinical intervention.

Chemical immobilization and restrain

The elephant was approached to a close distance by a vehicle then darted using 17mgs of etorphine Hcl combined with 1500 i.u of hyaluronidase on the left hind thigh, the drug took effect after about 8 minutes and it went down on lateral side. Respiration rate and body temperatures were monitored very closely to ensure that the animal was under stable anaesthesia before treatment began.

Examination and treatment

The elephant had two deep and penetrating wounds on the left side of the abdomen, one of the wounds went through the abdominal muscles into the peritoneum and this had a higher risk of developing peritonitis. There was pus and fluid accumulation on the ventral side of the abdomen caused by internal haemorrhage and inflammation. The wounds were then examined and probed using a long tissue forceps and cleaned using clean water and gauze swabs, a slit opening was created on the ventral side of the abdomen to enhance drainage of pus and necrotic tissue debris. The wounds were further flushed using 10% hydrogen peroxide and finally treated with a tincture of iodine and oxytetracycline spray. The elephant was also treated using long-acting oxytetracycline antibiotic administered intramuscularly and multivitamins.

Revival of anaesthesia

The elephant was revived from narcosis using 60mgs of diprenorphine Hcl administered through the superficial ear-veins. The Siana game scouts were instructed to monitor the animal very closely for some time after treatment and report its progress to the veterinary team. It had a fair prognosis and good chances of recovery from the injury if the wound would not progress into peritonitis and cause septiceamia.

Treatment of a buffalo (Syncerus caffer) with fluid accummulation in the joints in Mara Triangle.

This was an adult male buffalo which had bilateral swellings on the lateral sides of the elbow joints and tarsal joints. The animal could not move properly because of the swellings that exerted a lot of pressure on the thoracic muscles and affecting the respiration rate. The buffalo was then captured by darting using 5mgs of etorphine combined with 40mgs of xylazine Hcl.

Examination and treatment

The swellings were soft on palpation and were full of fluid accummulation, when the swellings were aspirated using 18” gauge needle and 20ml syringe it produced a colourless serous fluid with whitish suspensions. The swellings were then carefully lanced using a surgical blade fitted on a blade holder and about 10litres of fluid was drained from all the swellings. White foamy fatty tissues were also squeezed out of the swellings. All the resulting wounds were then cleaned and debrided using clean water and 10% hydrogen peroxide then flushed with tincture of iodine and sprayed using oxytetracycline spray. About 1 inch open slit was created on the lower side of each swelling to enhance further drainage of any fluid accummulation. Samples of the fluid, blood and tissue debris were collected for laboratory analysis. Adequate dosages of long-acting oxytetracycline antibiotics were administered intramuscularly to help take care of bacterial infections.

The male buffalo with bilateral fluid accumulation

The immobilized buffalo  Draining the fluid & foamy fatty tissues

The buffalo awake after treatment.  The buffalo back on its feet

The cause of fluid accummulation in these joints was not known but it was likely due to bilateral stenosis of lymphatic vessels meant to drain lymph fluid from those areas. The buffalo was to be monitored for a few days to find out if the problem could recur and if that is the case then it would have been euthanized for postmortem because of poor prognosis and to avoid undue pain. But the condition never recurred and the buffalo has not been reported again.

Revival of anaesthesia and release

The buffalo was revived using 24mgs of diprenorphine Hcl combined with 5mgs of atipamezole Hcl administered through the jugular vein. It rose up after 2 minutes and joined the rest of the herd. Prognosis was favorable after the drainage and treatment of the condition.

Rescue of a buffalo calf in Maasai Mara National Reserve

This was an orphaned female buffalo calf that was found lying under a tree near Sarova Mara lodge, it was only one day old when we found it. The mother could not be seen anywhere nearby and was suspected to have died. It was taken to the Mara research station and fed on fresh packet milk and water warmed to about 37ºC, it was also treated for diarrhea and opportunistic bacterial infection using Betamox® once a day for 3 days. Unfortunately it succumbed to pneumonia and died just before it was delivered to the animal orphanage, this was attributed to low immunity since the calf was abandoned before it took enough colostrum.

Rescuing the day old calf  The calf was only a day old

The rescued buffalo calf

Conclusion

In the last half of April and early May, 2011, Maasai Mara has received a lot of rains and most wildlife species have moved out of the reserve to community settlements to avoid tall grass and swampy areas in the reserve. This is likely to increase the human-wildlife conflict cases in the community areas as compared to inside the reserve. KWS appreciates the great financial support from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust towards provision of wildlife veterinary services in Maasai Mara and other parts of the Central Rift Conservation area.

 

Report by: Dr. Domnic Mijele