The Mara Mobile Veterinary Unit
Field Report - September 2011
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During the month of September, 2011, the Central Rift veterinary unit was mainly involved in translocation of elephants from Narok area to Maasai Mara National Reserve in an attempt to reduce the escalating human-elephant conflict in Narok area. Sixty two elephants were successfully translocated from Narok to Maasai Mara over a period of about 3 weeks. An adult male lion which had a traumatic injury on the right front pad was also treated in Oloolaimutiak area of Maasai Mara. The lion was sighted by the Narok County Council rangers, it was unable to move and was found lying in a bushy area a few kilometers from Oloolaimutiak gate.
Treatment of an adult male lion in Oloolaimutiak area of Mara.
The adult male lion was sighted along the road to Oloolaimutiak area, it had a severe wound on the right front foot pad and several other bite wounds on the back, thighs, shoulder and abdomen. The lion also had a paralysis of the hind legs probably caused by the injury to the spinal column at the back. It could not walk properly and only crawled on the ground whenever it tried to move. The lion was under a very intensive pain caused by the bite wounds at the spinal column and the paw. It required an immediate treatment of the wounds to resolve continued inflammation and pain caused by the numerous bite wounds on the body.
The lion was captured using 450mgs of Xylazine Hcl combined with 450mgs of Ketamine Hcl, it was darted on the left thigh and became recumbent after about 20 minutes. Even after being darted still it could not move due to hind leg paralysis and intensive pain from the injuries. 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 still in a good body condition despite the pain and suffering, it had not hunted for sometime when we found it and it seemed quite hungry. The wounds were suspected to have been caused by bites from other lions while fighting for a mate or territory. The injury on the foot pad was deep and was affecting front leg mobility.
All the wounds were cleaned using clean water then debrided using 10% hydrogen peroxide and a tincture of iodine applied topically onto the wounds, then sprayed using oxytetracycline spray and cloxacillin ointment. The lion was also treated using antibiotics (Betamox) and flunixine meglumine administered intramuscularly. Blood samples were collected in EDTA coated tubes and plain tubes coated with clot retractor and kept in a cool box, tissue samples and ectoparasites were also collected and kept in 70% ethanol solution awaiting further laboratory analysis.
The animal was revived from anaesthesia after about 40 minutes using 20mgs of Atipamezole Hcl administered intramuscularly, it took about 15 minutes to rise up though still it could not move properly and was unable to hunt for itself, on that day we fed it on a freshly dead impala. Prognosis was favorable after treatment because the wounds had not become septiceamic, it also had good appetite. It was to be monitored closely on a daily basis by security rangers to know its progress just in case it required further attention.
Translocation of elephants from Narok area to Maasai Mara NR.
In the recent past cases of human-wildlife conflict have tremendously increased in Narok area, this has been attributed to increase in human population, conversion of wild range land into agriculture and loss of habitat for animals. Most of the reported conflict cases in Narok are human-elephant conflict cases. Elephants are usually involved in human injuries, human deaths, crop destruction and other property destruction. The area is becoming unsustainable for wildlife conservation if the current trend of crop farming, charcoal burning and tree logging continues. In order to reduce the number of incidences of human-elephant conflict, the local community have agreed to translocate the 200 elephants to Maasai Mara where there is adequate space for conservation. In the first phase of translocation, 62 elephants were successfully captured and transported to Maasai Mara during the month of September, 2011.
Family groups of elephants were darted from a helicopter using different dosages of etorphine Hcl combined with hyaluronidase and then loaded onto the transportation trucks before being driven to Maasai Mara a distance of about 150 kilometers to the release site.
The unit has been attending to all reported cases of wildlife injuries and sicknesses in the Mara and other parts of Central Rift area. KWS is very much grateful for the support of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) towards provision of wildlife veterinary services in Maasai Mara and other parts of the Central Rift Conservation area; this has significantly contributed to wildlife conservation in these areas which are facing the challenge of human-wildlife conflict and loss of wildlife habitat.
Report by: Dr. Domnic Mijele