The Mara Mobile Veterinary Unit
Field Report - July 2011
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During the month of July, 2011, there were cases of wounded lions and snared giraffe reported in Maasai Mara and Olare Orok wildlife conservancy. These included a case of a lion with a severe traumatic injury on the right side of the face and a lion with an arrow-head stuck on its spinal column in Olare Orok conservancy. There was also an adult male giraffe with a loose wire snare on the neck in Mara Triangle. The unit was also involved in rapid sampling and testing of bovine tuberculosis in about 250 cattle within 5Km zone around Maasai Mara National Reserve in an attempt to establish the prevalence of the disease and validate recent diagnostic kits. Bovine tuberculosis is a zoonotic disease whose main hosts are buffaloes and domestic cattle and has the potential of being transmitted between wildlife, livestock and humans. More detailed reports of all the animal cases attended to during the month of July, 2011 are highlighted in the report below.
Treatment of an injured male lion in near Talek river, Maasai Mara.
Lions are quite prone to traumatic injuries sustained while hunting for food or during territorial fights while competing for a mate, often they sustain fractures or severe wounds and may even die in certain instances. The adult male lion was sighted along the bank of Talek river with a very severe wound on the right side of the face, it was an extensive circular wound extending from the facial crest to very close to the eyelids and it was affecting the eyesight as the animal was not able to blink normally. The lion kept scratching the wound and inflicting more injuries as it attempted to scare away stomoxys flies that kept on irritating the wound. This lion was in a company of two other male lions, and it was in a very painful situation that required an immediate veterinary attention. The vet team from Mara managed to find it and it was successfully captured and treated for the injuries.
The lion was captured using 500mgs of Xylazine Hcl combined with 500mgs of Ketamine Hcl, it was darted on the right thigh and became recumbent after about 15 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 good body condition and the vital physiological parameters were monitored and recorded as follows; respiration rate 28 cycles/minute, deep and regular, pulse rate 80 beats/minute, strong and regular, body temperature of 37 degrees Celsius, buccal, conjuctiva and anal mucosal membranes had pink normal colour, capillary refill time (CRT) was 2 seconds. The wound was suspected to have been caused by bites from other lions while fighting for a mate.
The wound was carefully cleaned using a lot of clean water then debrided using 10% hydrogen peroxide and treated by tincture of iodine applied topically followed by oxytetracycline spray and cloxacillin ointment. The animal was further treated using antibiotics (Betamox) and dexamethasone. Eyes were well treated with Opticlox eye ointment to prevent desiccation and infection.
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 70% ethanol solution awaiting laboratory analysis.
The animal was revived from anaesthesia after about 45 minutes using 15mgs of Atipamezole Hcl administered intramuscularly, it took about 15 minutes to rise up. The wound was still very painful and it was unable to hunt but would be supported by the other male lions that stayed with it. Prognosis was quite good because it had not developed septiceamia, it also had good appetite. It was to be monitored on a daily basis by security rangers who would report on its progress regularly just in case it required a repeat treatment.
Treatment of a male lion with an arrow-head stuck on the back
This was a case of an adult male lion sighted in Olare Orok Wildlife conservancy with an arrow-head still stuck on the back piercing directly through the spine. The lion was in a great pain and preferred lying down most of the times unable to hunt due to pain from the spinal column. It was an urgent case and the veterinary team from Mara managed to anaesthetize the lion, surgically removed the arrow-head and treated it for the injuries caused by the weapon.
The lion was captured using 400mgs of Xylazine Hcl combined with 400mgs of Ketamine Hcl, it was darted on the right thigh and became recumbent after about 7 minutes. It was then blindfolded and put on a towel for proper examination.
Examination and treatment
The lion was examined and found to be under stable anaesthesia then the arrow-head was removed carefully using tissue forceps, surgical blade and haemostats. It had created a deep wound through the vertebral column at the spines of lumbar vertebrae region. The impact of the arrow had caused some cracks on the vertebral disc where we extracted some pieces of bone flakes. The wound was already infected and could not be sutured due to sepsis, it was therefore cleaned and debrided using 10% hydrogen peroxide followed by application of tincture of iodine and cloxacillin ointment. It was further treated by Betamox antibiotic and dexamethasone administered intramuscularly. Blood and tissue samples were collected for laboratory analysis and future reference.
After treatment, the lion was revived from anaesthesia after about 30 minutes using 10mgs of Atipamezole Hcl administered intramuscularly; it took about 15 minutes to rise up and got into the nearby shrubs. Prognosis was quite good after removal of the arrow and treating the wound, the rangers were informed to keep monitoring it daily and report the progress to the veterinary for further attention.
Removal of a snare from a Giraffe in Mara Triangle
This was an adult male giraffe that had been sighted with a loose wire snare hanging around the neck, it had not inflicted any injury to the neck but it was quite long and the giraffe was pulling it on the ground and affecting its movements in the wild. The animal was sighted by the Mara Conservancy rangers while on their regular patrol and reported the case to Mara veterinary unit for attention.
Chemical immobilization and restrain
The giraffe was darted from a vehicle using 12mgs of etorphine hydrochloride combined with 50mgs of Xylazine hydrochloride. It took about 6 minutes to get narcotized and was then roped down manually. The wire was then immediately cut off using a wire cutter, the giraffe was in a very good body condition. Blood samples were obtained from the jugular vein that will be analyzed for health monitoring purposes.
After removal of the snare, the animal was revived from anaesthesia using 36mgs of Diprenorphine hydrochloride combined with 5mgs of Atipamezole hydrochloride administered through the jugular vein. It rose up after about 3 minutes and joined the rest of the herd nearby after a successful treatment. Prognosis was good after removing the wire which had not inflicted any injury to the neck it was in a good body condition.
Veterinary activities in the Mara ecosystem were quite successful during the month of July, 2011, with most of the reported wildlife cases attended to. Currently there is an increase in incidences of human-wildlife conflicts resulting into many cases of wildlife injuries being reported that require veterinary intervention. We wish to acknowledge the support of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust towards provision of wildlife veterinary services in Maasai Mara and other parts of the Central Rift Conservation area; this has significantly contributed to the general wildlife conservation in these areas which are facing the challenge of human-wildlife conflict and loss of wildlife habitat.
Report by: Domnic Mijele