The Mara Mobile Veterinary Unit
Field Report - December 2012
Return to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
During the month of December, the Mara veterinary unit was involved in a number of activities including an extensive tsetse entomological survey in the entire Mara ecosystem, treatment of wounded elephant and collaring of a lioness in Naiboshio conservancy. An adult male hippo got stuck and died in deep septic pit in Kichakani camp was the worst incident in Masai Mara. The veterinary unit in Masai Mara urgently requires adequate electricity to run a sample bank fridge in the camp, without which most of the samples will deteriorate before being analysed. All the veterinary activities went on successfully during the month as reported below.
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. It had some blood and fluid oozing out of the wound. 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. This required an urgent veterinary intervention.
Chemical immobilization, examination and treatment
The elephant was darted from a vehicle using 17mgs of etorphine Hcl combined with 5000 i.u on the right thigh. The drug took effect after about 6 minutes and it became recumbent. The wound was then examined for the presence of any foreign material, the injury was slit opened using a surgical blade and probed by long haemostat forceps, we also used a metal detector to detect the presence of any metal, it was then pressed and cut open to drain all the pus and necrotic debris completely.
Unfortunately, the animal had developed peritonitis and had extensive injuries to the internal organs that would not heal, the detector showed signs of an existing metallic object in the abdomen which could not be retrieved. Abdominal contents had spilled out and caused severe necrotic peritonitis. The elephant was therefore euthanized to save it from pain and suffering.
Entomological survey of Tsetse fly prevalence and distribution in Masai Mara ecosystem
During the month of December, KWS veterinarian and scientists in Masai Mara organized for an entomological survey of tsetse fly in the larger Mara ecosystem. This was done in collaboration with PATTEC (Pan-African teste and trypanosomiasis eradication campaign). Several biconical traps were deployed strategically inside the National Reserve and outside to help map the tsetse distribution and establish tsetse prevalence in Masai Mara. A number of tsetse species were trapped and identified such as Glossina pallidipes, Glossina swinnertoni and Glossina fuscipleuris. The data obtained from this surveillance will help in planning and implementation of tsetse eradication and control strategy.
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 on 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). 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 and eradication strategies. Some of the tsetse fly species so far trapped in Mara include Glossina pallidipes, Glossina swinnertoni and Glossina fuscipleuris. 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.
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 another 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. This was the second lioness to be collared in the conservancy after the previous one was collared in October, 2012.
The lioness was successfully anaesthetized and 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 coordinates of the lioness regularly 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.
A hippopotamus stuck in a septic pit in Kichakani Camp
The worst incident occurred in Kichakani camp when an adult male hippo strayed into the camp at night and jumped into a 7 feet deep septic pit which was not well covered. The animal remained in the pit for a whole night before it was found the following day morning. Meanwhile it had struggled to get out of the pit but in vain. It sustained several bruises on the head and rump since the pit was narrow and squeezed. The injuries coupled with stress and shock led to death within a short time. By the time the KWS veterinary team arrived, the hippo had died. Postmortem examination revealed traumatic fatal injuries on the head and haemorrhage to the brain.
The owner of the camp was ordered to cover the pit immediately and warned by KWS against digging such pits in areas accessed by wildlife.
Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) acknowledges 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 health and conservation in the Mara ecosystem. We also acknowledge the support of the KWS rangers and staff from Masai Mara National Reserve, Mara North 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