The Mara Mobile Veterinary Unit
Field Report - June 2012
Return to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
The Mara veterinary unit was involved in several activities in the month of June, 2012. These included collaring of lions in Ngurumani/Magadi area, treatment of a wounded elephant and black rhino in Masai Mara among other cases. A female elephant also had its faulty collar replaced near Talek area in Masai Mara, this was done with a combined effort by KWS, DSWT and STE. All the collared elephants are now being monitored online to map the elephants movement corridors and incidents of human-elephant conflict. All the veterinary activities went on successfully during the same period.
Treatment of a wounded male elephant in Masai Mara.
This was a case of an adult male elephant which had a severe extensive wound on the lateral side of the right front leg. The wound was quite infected with a lot of necrotic debris, the cause of the injury was not known but it was suspected that the animal had been shot by poisonous arrows which caused an acute inflammation and cellulitis that led to these extensive wounds on the leg. This was one of the elephants that was fitted with a GPS collar in December by KWS and Save the Elephants (STE) team as a means of addressing human-elephant conflict in Masai Mara ecosystem. It was sighted by the Masai Mara rangers together with the Mara North Conservancy rangers who immediately informed the vet to attend to it. It was under a great pain and moved with a lot of difficulties. It also had the risk of developing septiceamia.
Chemical immobilization, examination and treatment
The elephant was darted from a vehicle using 18mgs of etorphine Hcl combined with 1500 i.u, the drug took effect after about 6 minutes and it became recumbent. The wounds was then examined for the presence of any foreign material, then cleaned with a lot of water and gauze swabs removing all the mud, maggots and loose tissue debris. The wound was also probed using long tissue forceps in an attempt to find out how deep it penetrated into the tissues. There was no arrow-head or any foreign material retrieved from the wound. It was then cleaned and debrided using 10% hydrogen peroxide draining all the accumulated pus and tissue debris, then treated using a topical application of a tincture of iodine and oxytetracycline spray. It was also covered with green clay powder which maintains wound cleanliness, repel flies and enhance pus drainage.
Further treatments by intramuscular administration of long-acting oxytetracycline antibiotics and multivitamins were provided. Blood samples were collected from the superficial ear-veins for testing of various infections.
Revival of anaesthesia
After treatment, the elephant was revived from anaesthesia using 48mgs of diprenorphine hydrochloride administered through the superficial ear-vein. It was to be monitored closely by the rangers who were to report its progress daily to the veterinarian for further treatment.
Repeat treatment and prognosis
The elephant was treated again after two weeks, the wounds had started healing and massive granulomatous tissues covered the wound, this was a good sign of wound healing. Prognosis was better after repeat treatment and the animal seemed more energetic than it was before. We do acknowledge the tireless effort made by the Masai Mara and Mara North conservancy rangers in monitoring the progress of the elephant and reporting to KWS on time for action to be taken.
A cheetah with delayed parturition in Masai Mara
One of the cheetahs in Olkiombo area of Masai Mara was sighted having a dead foetus hanging from the vulvar. It was a case of dystocia in which the foetus was being born through posterior-ventral position. The foetus got strangled by the placenta and got stuck in the pelvic cavity leading to asphyxiation, death and delayed birth of the foetus. So the foetus was still hanging on the vulvar several hours after attempted birth. Fortunately when the vet team arrived to assist, the cheetah managed to push the foetus out successfully even before the vet intervened. It was still strong and healthy after birth complications, its still being monitored to ensure it is safe.
Collaring of five lions in Ngurumani area
Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) in collaboration with the African Conservation Center (ACC) managed to fix GPS collars to five lions in Ngurumani/Magadi area in an effort to address incidences of human-wildlife conflict in the area. The five lions (2 males and 3 females) were successfully anaesthetized and collared for continuous monitoring. The lions were captured using various dosages of xylazine Hcl combined with ketamine Hcl through darting. Anaesthesia was routinely monitored throughout the process of collaring to ensure the lions were under stable anaesthesia. Biological samples such as whole blood, serum, tissue and ectoparasites were also collected.
The lions were revived from anaesthesia using atipamezole Hcl administered through the intramuscular route and recovery was smooth and successful.
Treatment of a male black rhino in Masai Mara National Reserve
This was a case of an adult male black rhino that was sighted with serious traumatic injuries around the caudal horn and face. It had been engaged in a fierce fight with another male within Musiara area of Masai Mara National Reserve. The wound had lasted about 24 hours and was full of blood clot. The rhino was sighted by the Mara rhino monitoring team who reported immediately to KWS vet for action to be taken.
Chemical immobilization and treatment
After making extensive search by foot patrol, the injured rhino was located in a densely vegetated area a few kilometers from Main Governors camp. The animal was then darted on foot since the area was stony and marshy such that vehicles could not reach where the rhino was. It was darted using 4.5mgs of etorphine hydrochloride combined with 80mgs of xylazine hydrochloride. It took about 5 minutes for the drug to take effect and the animal went down on lateral recumbency, then 10mgs of Narlophine hydrochloride was administered through the ear vein to help improve the respiratory rate which was recorded at 8 cycles per minute while the body temperature was 39.0 oC.
Examination and treatment
The animal had injuries around the caudal horn (short horn), the horn was still intact except for injuries around it. The wounds were flushed with hydrogen peroxide 10% and then treated using a tincture of iodine then sprayed with oxytetracycline spray and green clay. The rhino was also treated with long acting Betamox (antibiotic) injection, multivitamins and dexamethasone.
Revival of anaesthesia
After treatment, the rhino was revived from anaesthesia using 24mgs of Diprenorphine hydrochloride combined with 5mgs of Aipamezole hydrochloride administered through the ear vein. It rose up after about 2 minutes and took off to the nearby shrubs. It had a good prognosis because it was reported and treated in good time.
It is good to note that this was the first incidence of rhino injury caused by territorial fights which could be attributed to rhino carrying capacity within Masai Mara. It would be good to conduct an assessment to determine the rhino carrying capacity in Masai Mara area.
Replacement of a collar of a female elephant in Masai Mara
We captured and replaced a GPS collar of one of the female elephants that had recently been collared in Masai Mara. Its collar had failed to transmit GPS locations online and this made it difficult to track its movements in Mara. The main objectives of elephant collaring in Masai Mara is to enhance daily monitoring of elephant populations in the entire Masai Mara ecosystem in order to map out the elephant movement corridors and to reduce incidences of human-elephant conflict (HEC).
The female elephant was sighted by air and vehicle patrol by KWS and Save the Elephants team. It was then captured by darting from a vehicle using etorphine combined with hyaluronidase. The faulty collar was then removed and replaced by a new one. The collars were designed to use satellite network and send GPS locations of elephants at an interval of 4 hours everyday for the next 5 years.
Revival of anaesthesia
After fitting the collar, the elephant was revived from anaesthesia using 48mgs of diprenorphine hydrochloride administered through the superficial ear-vein, the collaring exercise was quite successful and the elephant joined the rest of elephant herds without any complications. We are now able to track and get the GPS locations of the elephant daily.
We wish to acknowledge the support of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust towards provision of wildlife veterinary services in Masai Mara ecosystem 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.
We acknowledge the support of the rangers and staff from Masai Mara National Reserve and Mara North conservancy for continuous support and reporting of wildlife incidences requiring veterinary intervention in Masai Mara.
Report by: Dr. Domnic Mijele