The Mara Mobile Veterinary Unit
Field Report - January 2012
Return to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
The veterinary unit in Masai Mara managed to attend to a sub-adult female cheetah with an extensive injury on the proximal part of the right shoulder close to the shoulder joint. Postmortem of two elephants that died in Mara North conservancy and Olmotorogi conservancy and a lion that died in Olchoro-Oiroua conservancy as reported below.
Treatment of an injured cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) in Oloolaimutiak, Masai Mara NR
This was a sub-adult female cheetah which had a large traumatic wound on the left shoulder, it was in a company of three other cheetahs, it was weak and in a painful condition preferring to lie under three most of the time and unable to hunt for prey. It required urgent veterinary attention before the wound progressed further to cause septiceamia. The cheetah was spotted by the Narok county council rangers based at Oloolaimutiak gate, it was then restrained by chemical anaesthesia and treated successfully.
The cheetah was darted from a close distance using 150mgs of ketamine combined with 1.5mgs of medetomidine hydrochloride on the left thigh; it took about 10 minutes for the drug to take effect. After being anaesthetized, it was transferred to a cool shade under a tree from where it was examined and treated. Both the eyes were covered with opticlox eye ointment to avoid desiccation and conjunctivitis while it was recumbent. The dart was removed and dart wound treated using Opticlox eye ointment. The vital physiological parameters were monitored and recorded to ensure that it was under stable anaesthesia.
It had a large infected wound on the proximal part of the right shoulder next to the humero-scapular joint (shoulder joint). The wound was very painful, itchy and seemed to have stayed for over a week without healing as was expected. It was suspected to have been bitten by a lion as they struggled over a prey.
The wound was properly debrided and cleaned using clean water and then 10% hydrogen peroxide; and topically treated using a tincture of iodine applied on it and then sprayed by oxytetracycline spray. The wound was already infected and could not be sutured. The animal was further treated using antibiotics (Amoxycillin) Betamox and dexamethasone administered intramuscularly to counter inflammatory reactions and to reduce pain.
Blood samples were collected in EDTA coated tubes and plain tubes coated with clot retractor and kept in a cool box, tissue and hair samples kept in ethanol solution. The samples have been processed and stored in KWS lab for further analysis and for health monitoring purposes.
After treatment, the animal was revived from anaesthesia after about 1 hour using 50mgs of Atipamezole Hcl administered intramuscularly; it took about 10 minutes to rise up. It was to be monitored on a daily basis by the county council rangers who would then report on its progress regularly to the veterinarian just in case it required further treatment.
The cheetah had good chances of healing after treatment because the wound had started healing and was attended to at the right time. It would be fed by the other cheetahs which stayed with her. It was monitored closely by the rangers at the Oloolaimutiak gate who later reported that it had successfully recovered from the injury.
Rescue of a female hyena involved in livestock predation in Talek area
This was a case of a stray hyena that kept on breaking into livestock bomas in Talek area and killing livestock for prey. It had killed 6 goats by the time, KWS team in Masai Mara and community members around Talek agreed to trap it and re-locate it to a far place inside the reserve. It was then trapped using a trap cage with a live goat used as bait. The hyena in the trap was then loaded onto a Landcruiser pick-up and driven to Ngiro-Are in Mara Triangle more than 50 Kilometers from Talek area. It was successfully released near another den of hyenas who would adopt her. Incidences of livestock predation have increased in the Masai Mara area attributed to movement of herbivores outside the reserve.
Postmortem of a male lion in Olchoro Oiroua Conservancy
The adult male lion was found dead in Olchoro-oiroua conservancy, it was in a good body condition by the time it died. It had scars of previous traumatic injuries on the abdomen and hind quarters. On postmortem examination the only significant finding was the impaction of large intestines particularly the rectum with compacted soil and pebbles, the stomach and small intestines were completely empty with no ingesta, enlarged gall bladder and jaundice of the stomach membranes caused by leakages of bile contents. The lion was suspected to have died of intestinal impaction leading to abdominal pains and shock.
Postmortem examination of a bull elephant in Olmotorogi Conservancy
The carcass of the bull elephant was sighted in Olmotorogi Conservancy after a bout 1 week, the carcass had been preyed on by vultures and hyenas leaving only skin and bones which could not reveal much about the cause of death. Bothe tusks were still intact and were recovered to KWS store in Ewaso Ngiro. A metal detector was used to scan the carcass to try to detect any metallic object or bullet which could have been used to kill the elephant, but nothing was found.
Postmortem examination of a female elephant in Mara North Conservancy
This was an adult female elephant that was found dead in Mara North Conservancy, the carcass was still fresh when spotted by the conservancy scouts. It was suspected to have died of anthrax but after obtaining peripheral blood smears and observing under a light microscope, no Bacillus anthracis organisms were detected. It was also scanned by a metal detector but no bullet or any other metallic object was found. The exact cause of death was not immediately ascertained but it was suspected to have died of a traumatic injury. The tusks were still intact and were recovered and taken to KWS stores in Ewaso Ngiro.
KWS acknowledges the support of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) towards provision of wildlife veterinary services; this has significantly contributed to wildlife conservation in the Masai Mara ecosystem which is currently facing the challenge of human-wildlife conflict, loss of wildlife habitat and neglected zoonotic diseases such as rabies, anthrax, trypanosomiasis and bovine tuberculosis.
Report by: Dr. Domnic Mijele