The Mara Mobile Veterinary Unit

Field Report - October 2013

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Introduction

During the month the team attended to varied cases mostly in the conservancies. Poaching among the elephants is still a problem as evidenced by elephant cases attended. All involved postmortem as a result of spearing and one was intervened and an arrow head retrieved. Lion- cheetah conflict featured during the month resulting in losses of a mother cheetah and her cub in one case and cheetah cubs in another.

Below are the cases attended during the month:

Case#1: Treatment/postmortem of an adult male elephant at Naboisho conservancy.

Date: 14th October 2013

Species: Elephant

Sex: male

Age: Adult (about 30-35yrs)

Location: Naboisho conservancy

GPS coordinates 36M0761309, UTM9844192

History

Naboisho conservancy management reported having seen this elephant in the morning of the same day being lethargic and disinclined to move. It kept supporting its head on a tree with very little movement. They informed the mobile veterinary team on the ground and were advised to keep track as the team headed there.

The team arrived and found a very weak elephant hardly able to move. There were discharging wounds on either sides of the flank which appeared septic. The elephant was immobilized by use of 15mg etorphine through dan inject system. However it died in the course of treatment. Postmortem was immediately undertaken.

General examination of the carcass.

  • The examination of the carcass revealed an elephant that was in good body condition with an average score of 4 in a scale of 1to5 where 1 is poor and 5 is perfect.
  • There were two wounds on both sides of the flank with purulent discharge. The edges of the wounds were sharp suggestively inflicted by spearing. The wound on the left flank was deeper approximately 3 inches wide and 12 inches deep with an oblique course antero-posteriorly directed. The left kidney was damaged. The wound on the right flank was shallow approximately 3 inches wide and 3 inches deep.
  • There was a healing wound on the left scapular area which appeared to have been a gunshot

Significant findings

Of significance were the two relatively new wounds on either sides of the flank. They could have been caused by spearing with poison laced spears. Damage to the kidney was fatal. The elephant exhibited hematuria before death.

Conclusion

  1. Based on history and post mortem examination conducted, this elephant died of suspected spearing with poisoned laced spear.
  2. These findings highly suggest human involvement in the death of this elephant.  

    The bull is darted  Cleaning the wound on the left flank

    The wound on the left flank  The wound on the right flank after it is cleaned

    Applying green clay to the wound

Case#2: Collaring of a lioness at Olkinyei conservancy

Date: 15th October 2013

Sex: female

Age: 5yrs

History

This collar was recovered and refurbished after a lioness which was initially collared killed and collar thrown away. This candidate was chosen because of its unique behavior. It was shy, likes hunting on her own, and rarely stays with other pride members and known to predate on domestic animals. It is also known to cover long distances within and out of the conservancy. The collaring was meant to monitor its movement for research and advice to the community.

Immobilization

The lioness was lured into the open by playing a call back of a buffalo in distress very early in the morning. The lioness duly responded and joined a pride that had also turned up. She was immobilized by use of 300mg Ketamine and 300mg xylazine in a 3ml Dan inject dart. Additional 100mg Ketamine and 100mg xylazine was given by hand injection after 20mins to achieve sufficient anaesthesia. Deployment of the collar was successfully done in 20mins.

Revival

This was achieved by giving 30mg atipamizole i.m 1 hr after the last dose of xylazine given. The lioness woke up after ten minutes and walked away without any problem.

Fitting the collar  The fitted collar

The lioness awake after the reversal drug is administered

Case#3:Postmortem of an adult male elephant at Oldonyoringa.

Date: 15th October 2013

Species: Elephant

Sex: male

Age: Adult (about 15-20yrs)

Location: Oldonyoringa

GPS coordinates 36M 0760238, UTM9863954

History

This case was reported by KWS patrol team based at Lemek. They came across this carcass without tusks and requested postmortem services to ascertain the cause of death.

General examination

  • The examination of the carcass revealed an elephant that was in good body condition with an average score of 4 in a scale of 1to5 where 1 is poor and 5 is perfect.
  • The carcass was about three days old and was beginning to putrefy with maggots beginning to infest.
  • There was an open wound on the upper right thoracic region suggestively caused by spearing.
  • There was a healing abscess on the right thigh.
  • Both tusks were missing.

Significant findings

On opening the carcass, of significance was piercing wound on the right thoracic region which penetrated deep into the pleural cavity. This resulted into collapse of the lungs due to pneumothorax. The spear could as well have been laced with poison.

All other organs grossly appeared normal.

Conclusion

1.Based on history and post mortem examination conducted, this elephant died of pneumothorax as result of  spearing .possibility of complications by poisoning can also not be ruled out.

2. These findings highly suggest human involvement in the death of this elephant. 

The dead elephant with tusks missing  Checking the depth of the piercing wound on the right thorax

Case #4: Treatment of an injured lioness at Lemek conservancy.

Date: 15th October 2013

History

This lioness was reported to have been involved in a fight with other lions resulting in injuries which limited her movements. She kept to herself at the edge of a thicket with a kill said to have been brought by other pride members. By the time of intervention she is said to have been in that location for three days.

Capture and assessment

Capture was chemically achieved by use of 300mg Ketamine and 300mg xylazine delivered through 3ml Dan inject dart. Additional 100mg Ketamine and 100mg xylazine was given 10mins after darting through hand injection. Full anaesthesia was achieved after 15mins. Examination revealed severe septic wounds on the lateral side of the left thigh and a dry clean wound on the left tarsal joint. One of the wounds on the thigh had an accumulation of pus with poor drainage. The lioness appeared expectant and was in good body condition hitherto.

Treatment

All the wounds were cleaned with copious amount of water debrided with hydrogen peroxide and lugol’s iodine applied. In addition an opening was made ventrally on one of the wounds to facilitate drainage. It was also flushed. Green clay was also packed onto the wounds. 3000mg Amoxycillin antibiotic was administered i.m.

Reversal

The treatment process took one hour upon where the lion was revived by giving 30mg atipamizole i.m. the lioness woke up after 10mins without any complications.

Prognosis

Good.

The immobilized lioness  The wound

The lioness undergoing treatment  Applying green clay to the cleaned wound

The lioness awake after treatment

Case #5: Rescue of cheetah cubs

Date: 17th October 2013

History

Management of Olare Orok conservancy reported having seen two abandoned cheetah cubs about three and a half months old. Their mother with another cub was reported to have been killed by lions on the night of 15th October 2013 according to Olare Orok conservancy rangers. The mobile veterinary unit responded and upon arrival found the two cubs lonely and hungry.

Capture

Given their ages it was safe to capture them manually and move them to Nairobi animal orphanage for specialized care. Both cubs were captured and safely transferred to a cushioned transport cage. They were both given 5% dextrose on transit and made calm by covering the cage with blanket to minimize light. This worked and the cubs were calm throughout the journey. Upon reaching the orphanage the cubs were transferred to a bigger cage, given water to drink and fed with rabbit meat. They are currently doing well at the orphanage.

The abandoned cheetah cubs under a tree  The rescued cheetah cubs ready for transport

Case #6: Rescue of a cheetah cub at hamerkop Masai mara

Date: 19th October 2013.

History

Warden Talek gate reported having seen an abandoned cheetah cub amongst other three dead cubs. The three cubs had been attacked and killed by lions and this particular cub was lucky to survive the attack without any injury. The mother cheetah was chased away thereby abandoning the cubs. By the time of arrival the pride of lions were a few meters from the cubs.

Management of the situation

Upon closer examination three of the cubs were dead with lion bite wounds while one was alive and safe. They were hardly one week old. We embarked on tracing the mother while at the same time a team kept vigil to prevent the lions from coming back to the cubs. The mother was located about 2km from the scene. We placed the cub strategically for the mother to see. The mother responded to calls by the cub and immediately came to pick the cub and transfer it to a safe location 

One of the dead cubs  The three dead cubs

The mother cheetah carries the rescued cub away

Case #7: Treatment of an injured male elephant at Mara bushtops

Date: 21st October 2013

History

This particular case was reported by Mara bushtop camp patrol team. The elephant was reported to be lethargic with a discharging wound on its right flank. It was reported that this elephant has stayed within a radius of a hundred meters close to a water source for four days prior to intervention.

Immobilization and treatment

For ease of capture the elephant was pushed to a better terrain before darting. It resisted but finally accepted to move but with difficulty. Immobilization was achieved by use of 15mg etorphine delivered through a 3ml Dan inject dart. Full anaesthesia was achieved after ten minutes with the elephant assuming right lateral recumbency. To access the injury the elephant had to be turned over by use of a vehicle. On closer examination the appeared to have been inflicted by spear and was deep enough to access the peritoneal cavity. There was a purulent discharge. This elephant appeared to have lost body condition with obvious bony prominences. There was also evidence of severe anemia indicated by palour of mucous membranes and collapse of blood vessels. The wounds were duly cleaned with copious amount of water and disinfected with lugol’s iodine. Green clay was then applied before 15000mg Amoxycillin antibiotic given i.m.

Reversal

This was achieved by administration of 48mg diprenorphine through ear vein. The elephant was able to wake up with assistance but could not immediately move.

Prognosis-grave

The elephant died 24 hrs after treatment and the postmortem picture showed severe purulent peritonitis and anemia with possible toxaemia from suspected spearing with poison laced spear.

The immobilized elephant  Checking the wound for foreign objects

The wound was exremely deep  Helping the elephant to get up

Case #8: Treatment of a male elephant at Olarro conservancy

Date: 23rd October 2013

History

Management of Olarro conservancy found this elephant lonely, lethargic and limping on its front right limb. They duly informed the mobile veterinary unit on the ground who responded immediately.

Immobilization and treatment

Immobilization was achieved by use of 15mg etorphine in a 3ml Dan inject dart. The elephant was fully immobilized after 12mins assuming a left lateral recumbency position. On examination the elephant had a fresh wound on the medial surface of its right carpal joint. Further probing of the wound revealed an arrow head stuck inside. The arrow head was removed, wound cleaned with swabs and liberally lavaged with clean water. Hydrogen peroxide was then applied with help of 20ml syringe before the wound again being rinsed with water. Lugol’s iodine was then applied and green clay packed. In addition 15000mg Amoxycillin antibiotic was given i.m.

The immobilized elephant before treatment  Examining the wound

The arrow that was removed from the wound

Reversal

This was achieved by administration of 48mg diprenorphine through the ear vein and the elephant woke up in three minutes without complications

Prognosis

Good.

Conclusion

The mara mobile veterinary unit would wish to thank the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and the Kenya Wildlife Service for their continued support. Their support has led to reduce in case response time and good coverage with overall objective of alleviation of wildlife suffering.

Report by: Dr Campaign Limo