The Mara Mobile Veterinary Unit
Field Report - March 2012
Return to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
The veterinary unit in Masai Mara continued with the research on Bovine tuberculosis (BTB) disease in buffaloes in which 12 buffaloes were randomly sampled from different herds and relevant biological samples collected for screening against bovine tuberculosis and other possible diseases. Three cheetah cubs were rescued from Mara Triangle to be reared in a cage until they reach 6 months when they will be released back to the wild. Baseline surveys on tsetse density and distribution were carried out using bi-conical traps within Masai Mara ecosystem. Other clinical cases included treatment of a lion with traumatic injury on the face near Musiara gate in Masai Mara and desnaring of a male giraffe in Mara Triangle. The month of March was marked with a lot of livestock incursions into the reserve searching for pasture and water and this could have contributed to many incidents of human-inflicted wildlife injuries.
Bovine tuberculosis disease surveillance in Buffaloes of Maasai Mara
As part of the on-going Bovine tuberculosis disease research in wildlife Masai Mara, 12 adult buffaloes comprising of 6 females and 6 males were captured and sampled in Mara Triangle and Kissinger areas within the reserve. The buffaloes were randomly selected from each herd and captured by darting from a vehicle using 4mgs of etorphine hydrochloride combined with 30mgs of xylazine hydrochloride and 1000 i.u hyaluronidase. Blood samples were collected for testing using bovidTB-STAT-PAK test and Bovigam tests. These are serological tests which are capable of detecting Mycobacterium bovis antibodies from serum or blood and indicate the prevalence of this disease in a population. So far more than 60 buffaloes have been tested in Masai Mara and the study continues.
Revival of anaesthesia
After collection of blood samples, the buffaloes were revived from anaesthesia using 24mgs of diprenorphine Hcl combined with 5mgs of atipamezole Hcl administered through the jugular vein and released to join the rest of the herd.
Rescue of orphaned cheetah cubs in Mara Triangle
Three cheetah cubs (2 males and 1 female) aged 3months were rescued from the field after their mother was reportedly killed by a lion over a prey. The cubs were too young and could not survive in the field. The Mara vet unit together with the management of Mara Conservancy rescued them and confined them in a safe cage in Mara conservancy headquarters. The cage was specially designed to protect them from extreme cold or heat and also to protect them from predators at night. They are being fed on meat with adequate drinking water. They are supposed to be released back to the wild after around 6 months when they can start hunting and feed themselves.
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. We found the giraffe standing motionless under a tree with a very long electrical cable hanging from the neck.
Chemical immobilization and restrain
The giraffe was darted from a vehicle using 14mgs of etorphine hydrochloride combined with 50mgs of Xylazine hydrochloride and 1000 i.u hyaluronidase. It took about 10 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 cutting and removal of the snare, the animal was revived from anaesthesia using 48mgs of Diprenorphine hydrochloride combined with 10mgs of Atipamezole hydrochloride administered through the jugular vein. It had to assisted by ropes to rise up prognosis was good after removing the snare and it was not in any danger after the rescue.
Tsetse fly control/eradication efforts in Masai Mara
Trypanosomiasis is one of the most important socio-economic diseases in Africa today. Trypanosomiasis is a vector-borne zoonotic disease which is transmitted by tsetse fly bites to human beings and animals. The disease is known to have devastating effects on livestock production, wildlife health and human health. It also impacts negatively agriculture, tourism and rural development leading to increased poverty in the affected areas. The human sleeping sickness is caused by Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense (East Africa) and Trypanosoma brucei gambiense (West Africa and Northern Uganda). While the animal trypanosomiasis referred to as Nagana is usually caused by Trypanosoma congolense, T. vivax, T. evansi, and T. equiperdum among others.
Efforts have been made by the government through the Pan-African Tsetse and Trypanosomiasis Eradication Campaign (PATTEC) and Kenya Wildlife Service to suppress/eradicate tsetse flies and trypanosomiasis in the Kenyan conservation areas including Ruma, Meru and Mwea. The Mara region was not covered in the first phase of the PATTEC project and plans are in progress for a joint intervention between Kenya and Tanzania governments to cover the Mara-Serengeti region. This will be spearheaded by KWS, PATTEC and other relevant government departments.
A preliminary survey on the distribution of tsetse flies in Masai Mara has been conducted by PATTEC and KWS to inform further control strategies. Some of the tsetse fly species so far trapped in Mara include Glossina pallidipes, Glossina swinnertoni and Glossina fascipleuris. However, more funds are required to continue with tsetse monitoring and eradication in the Mara ecosystem. Control measures will require use of insecticide impregnated targets and insectides for livestock spraying among other techniques. This will control the incidences of livestock and wildlife deaths due to trypanosomiasis and reduce the risks of human infection.
Treatment of an injured male lion in near Musiara gate, Maasai Mara
Free ranging lions in the wild are quite susceptible 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 with severe traumatic injuries on the fore-head on the medial side of the right eye, it was in accompany of another female lion near Musiara gate. 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 same lion had been treated twice before but it had only recovered partially because the lion kept scratching the wound and inflicting more injuries as it attempted to scare away stomoxys flies that kept on irritating the wound and interfering with the healing process. The lion 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. This was the third time it was being treated for the same injury and its expected to recover fully afterwards.
The lion was captured using 500mgs of Xylazine Hcl combined with 500mgs of Ketamine Hcl, it was darted on the left thigh but the drug did not discharge fully and it had to be re-darted on the right thigh. It then became recumbent after about 10 minutes. It was then blindfolded and transferred to a cool shade 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 30 cycles/minute, deep and regular, pulse rate 90 beats/minute, strong and regular, body temperature of 38 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. But it had started healing after the previous treatments.
The wound was carefully cleaned using 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. The wound could not be sutured because it was already infected and suturing would affect eye lid movements.
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 lion was revived from anaesthesia after about 60 minutes using 20mgs of Atipamezole Hcl administered intramuscularly, it took about 15 minutes to rise up. Prognosis was quite good because it had started healing partially and was expected to heal faster after the third treatment. It was to be monitored on a daily basis by security rangers who would report on its progress regularly just in case it required further attention.
KWS acknowledges the support of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) and other partners who have contributed a lot of valuable resources towards the 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