The Mara Mobile Veterinary Unit
Field Report - September 2012
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During the month of September, 2012, the Mara veterinary unit was involved in a number of activities including treatment of an elephant in Mara conservancy and translocation of elephants from Siyapei area in Narok to Masai Mara to reduce incidences of human-elephant conflicts. The unit also conducted an active surveillance and epidemiological survey of malignant catarrhal fever (MCF) disease in wildebeest of Masai Mara ecosystem, this was a collaborative effort between KWS, DSWT and University of Nairobi, a total of 21 wildebeests were captured and sampled. All the veterinary activities went on successfully during the month as reported below.
Treatment of a wounded sub-adult male elephant in Mara Conservancy.
This was a case of a sub-adult male elephant which had a penetrative wound on the medial side of right hind leg. The elephant was under great pain and could only walk slowly, it had been left alone in the thicket. The cause of the injury was not known but it was suspected that the animal could have been shot by an arrow-head during an incident of human-elephant conflict. The elephant was sighted by the rangers of Mara conservancy who immediately informed the vet to attend to it.
Chemical immobilization, examination and treatment
The elephant was darted from the ground using 10mgs of etorphine Hcl combined with 1500 i.u on the right thigh. The drug took effect after about 5 minutes and it became recumbent. The wound was then examined for the presence of any foreign material but there was none, the affected limb was extensively swollen and oedematous. An opening was created to drain all the accumulated fluid and pus from the injury.
The wound was also cleaned and debrided using 10% hydrogen peroxide draining all the accumulated pus and then treated using a topical application of a tincture of iodine and oxytetracycline spray. Further treatments by intramuscular administration of long-acting Amoxycillin (Betamox) antibiotics and flunixin meglumine were also provided.
Revival of anaesthesia
After treatment, it was revived from anaesthesia using 12mgs of diprenorphine hydrochloride administered through the superficial ear-vein. It was to be monitored closely by the rangers of Mara conservancy who would report the progress to the vet in case the elephant required further treatment. It had a good prognosis after treatment.
Continued investigation of Malignant catarrhal fever (MCF) in wildebeests of Masai Mara.
Further surveillance of Bovine malignant fever (MCF) in wildebeests was conducted in Masai Mara in September, 2012. Bovine malignant catarrhal fever (MCF) is an acute viral disease affecting cattle in both developed and developing countries, posing a serious threat to animal productivity and food security. Wildebeests are the key reservoirs of the disease which currently has no cure or vaccine, treatment is only supportive. In Kenya, MCF was first documented in 1960 (Plowright et al). The classical symptoms of the disease are high fever, mouth ulcers, poor feeding, weakness, eye/nose discharge, conjunctivitis and blindness. MCF causes catastrophic losses to livestock farmers as 90 - 100% mortality occurs in affected cattle herds.
Malignant catarrhal fever is caused by Alcephaline herpes virus 1 (AlHV-1) and Ovine herpes virus 2 (OvHV-2). Wildebeest and sheep are asymptomatic reservoirs for AlHV-1, OvHV-2 respectively which is easily transmitted to cattle. Close association of infected sheep and wildebeest facilitates transmission of the MCF viruses to cattle. In Kenya and Tanzania, infection of cattle with MCF coincides with the wildebeest migration and calving season. This study will establish the current epidemiology of MCF in the wildebeests, cattle and sheep of Masai Mara ecosystem.
Twenty one (21) wildebeests were captured by darting from a vehicle using 3 - 5mgs of etorphine hydrochloride combined with 30mgs of xylazine hydrochloride depending on age and size. Blood, ticks and tissue samples were collected from each animal and will be analyzed for MCF disease.
Translocation of elephants from Siyapei area to Masai Mara.
A total of 46 elephants were captured by chemical immobilization and translocated to Masai Mara National Reserve in September, 2012. The translocation was meant to reduce cases of human-elephant conflict which are a threat to both elephants and human beings. In the recent past cases of human-wildlife conflict have 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 the first phase of translocation, 62 elephants were successfully captured and transported to Masai Mara during the month of September, 2011. During this second phase 46 elephants were successfully captured and translocated to Masai Mara.
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 Masai Mara a distance of about 150 kilometers to the release site. Translocation of elephants from Narok has significantly reduced the number of human-elephant conflict cases in the area.
We do 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. We also acknowledge the support of the rangers and staff from Masai Mara National Reserve, Mara conservancy and the surrounding community-owned wildlife conservancies for continuous support and reporting of wildlife incidences requiring veterinary intervention in the Mara ecosystem.
Report by: Dr. Domnic Mijele