The Mara Mobile Veterinary Unit
Field Report - October 2012
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During the month of October, 2012, the Mara veterinary unit was involved in a number of activities including collaring of a lioness in Naiboshio conservancy, treatment of an elephant in Naiboshio conservancy, treatment of a lion with a snare wound in Mara conservancy and a postmortem examination on an elephant in Siyapei area among others. All the veterinary activities went on successfully during the month as reported below.
Rescue of an orphaned elephant calf from Polunga area of Narok to elephant orphanage in Nairobi
This was a young male elephant calf of about 1 year old that was found alone within Polunga residential estate close to Narok town. It had been in the area for a few days without the mother or any other elephant herd around. It was still healthy and strong. Arrangements were then made to capture it and transport it to the elephant orphanage at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Nairobi for tender care before being released back to the wild.
Tranquillization and transportation to orphanage
The calf was traced on foot for almost 2 hours in a bushy area then captured by darting using 40 mgs of azaperone (Stressnil) delivered by Dan-inject dart gun, the drug took effect within 5 minutes and the elephant became recumbent. The calf was then examined and found to be in a stable health condition even though it was beginning to loose its body condition and getting weak due to hypoglyceamia. It provided with a special milk preparation orally to help it regain lost energy and for rehydration, long-acting antibiotics were also administered intramuscularly for treatment of opportunistic bacterial infections. It was then covered using warm blankets and loaded onto a pick-up vehicle which took it to Ewaso Ngiro airstrip. The calf was then flown to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust elephant orphanage in Nairobi for tender care. It had good chances of surviving in the orphanage and had a very good appetite.
Collaring of a lioness in Naiboshio conservancy in Masai Mara.
Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) in collaboration with the Naiboshio Lion project managed to fix a GPS collar to one lioness in Naiboshio conservancy area in an effort to address incidences of human-wildlife conflict in the Masai Mara community conservancies and wildlife dispersal areas. The lioness was successfully anaesthetized and collared for continuous monitoring. It was captured using 400mgs of xylazine Hcl combined with 400mgs of ketamine Hcl through darting. Anaesthesia was monitored throughout the process of collaring to ensure the animal was under stable anaesthesia. Biological samples such as whole blood, serum, tissue and ectoparasites were also collected.
After completion of the collaring process, the lioness was revived from anaesthesia using atipamezole Hcl administered through the intramuscular route and recovery was smooth and successful.
The GPS collar will send GPS coordinates of the elephant after every 4 hours to help track the lion prides both within and outside the wildlife conservancy. It will also help to identify villages which are at high risk of livestock predation and to determine the high risk seasons.
Treatment of a wounded male elephant in Naiboshio conservancy in Masai Mara.
This was a case of an adult male elephant which had an infected wound on the right lateral side of the abdomen in Naiboshio conservancy within the Mara ecosystem. The wound was much infected with a lot of necrotic debris and pus oozing out from the opening. The accumulated pus resulted into a swelling of the right abdomen due to lack of an opening for drainage. The cause of the injury was not known but it was suspected that the animal could have been shot by an arrow-head while being chased out of the homesteads around conservancy. The elephant was sighted by the scouts and manager of Naiboshio conservancy who immediately informed the vet to attend to it. It was under a great pain and preferred resting under tree most of the time. It also had the risk of developing peritonitis and septiceamia that could easily lead to death.
Chemical immobilization, examination and treatment
The elephant was darted from a vehicle using 18mgs of etorphine Hcl combined with 3000 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, it was then pressed and cut open to drain all the pus and necrotic debris completely. The wound was then cleaned with a lot of water and gauze swabs removing all the mud, maggots and loose tissue debris. It was also probed using long tissue forceps in an attempt to find out how deep it penetrated into the tissues.
It was also cleaned and debrided using 10% hydrogen peroxide draining all the accumulated pus and necrotic 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 Amoxycillin (Betamox) antibiotics and flunixin meglumine were provided.
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 scouts and management of Naiboshio conservancy who would report the progress to the vet in case the elephant required further treatment.
Treatment of a lion with a snare wound round the neck
This was a case of an adult lion sighted in Mara conservancy near Oloololo gate with an abrasive wound around the neck caused by a wire snare that dropped off. The lion was in a great pain and preferred lying down most of the times hunting with difficulties and was alone in the wild. It was an urgent case and the veterinary team from Mara managed to attend to it on time, anaesthetized the lion and treated it for the injuries caused by the snare.
The lion was captured by darting using 450mgs of Xylazine Hcl combined with 450mgs of Ketamine Hcl, it was darted on the right thigh and became recumbent after about 10 minutes. It was then blindfolded and put on a towel under the shade for proper examination.
Examination and treatment
The lion was examined and found to be under stable anaesthesia, the snare had created a deep wound through the neck muscles and was getting infected. The snare had earlier dropped off and could not be seen. The wound was already infected and could not be sutured due to sepsis, it was therefore cleaned and debrided using 10% hydrogen peroxide followed by application of tincture of iodine and cloxacillin ointment. It was further treated by Betamox antibiotic and dexamethasone administered intramuscularly. Blood and tissue samples were collected for laboratory analysis.
After treatment, the lion was revived from anaesthesia after about 40 minutes using 25 mgs of Atipamezole Hcl administered intramuscularly; it took about 10 minutes to rise up. Prognosis was quite good after treatment of the wound, the Mara conservancy rangers were informed to keep monitoring it daily and report the progress to the veterinary team in Mara just in case it will require further attention.
Postmortem examination of an elephant in Siyapei area
The elephant carcass was sighted two days after death, it was an adult male elephant whose cause of death was not known. Postmortem examination revealed an arrow wound on the right abdomen, the arrow-head was still stuck on the abdomen. The arrow punctured part of the colon resulting into leakage of intestinal contents into the peritoneum. This caused generalized peritonitis caused by the traumatic injury by the arrow and leakage of intestinal contents. The arrow caused severe myonecrosis and peritonitis which could have led to septiceamia and death.
Kenya Wildlife Service appreciates the continous 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, Naboishio 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