The Mara Mobile Veterinary Unit

Field Report - October 2014

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MONTHLY VETERINARY REPORT FOR MASAI MARA - OCTOBER 2014.

Report by Dr.Campaign.K.Limo

Introduction

The month was characterized by moderate precipitation and a drop in tourist activities throughout the park. Pasture is recovering after recent depletion by wildebeests who are currently returning to the Serengeti. Snare removal featured prominently among the monthly cases with four animals de-snared from potentially fatal strangulating wire snares during the period. The spearing of elephants was witnessed following a period of quietness in this regard. Four elephants were treated for spear inflicted injuries with a spear being retrieved from one of these elephants. A sad event involving the loss of a nursing mother elephant through spearing was also recorded. The tiny calf left behind by the mother had to be rescued and taken to the Sheldrick’s Orphanage.

Below are cases handled during the month under review;

CASE #1 DE-SNARING OF A HYENA

Species: Hyena

Sex: Male

Age: Adult

Location: Masai Mara National Reserve

Date: 7th October 2014

History

This case was reported to us by the Sangalai camp management. They spotted this male hyena during their game drive with a snare tight round his neck close to Sand River in Masai Mara National Reserve. They sought our services to save its life.

Immobilization, examination and treatment

After a spirited search, this hyena was spotted in a hole relaxing, but with a snare obviously visible round his neck. However, he was still active. The hyena was immobilized chemically by use of combination of 4mgs Etorphine and 1mg Medetomidine delivered in a 1.5ml Daninject dart from a vehicle. The hyena had covered a distance of about 300meters before the drugs took effect after approximately four minutes.

Examination revealed he had a thick winch wire tight round his neck. The wire snare was embedded deep into the neck muscles creating a big wound. Luckily; the vital structures around the neck were still intact.

The snare wrapped around the hyena's neck  The snare was embedded in the hyena's neck

The snare was removed and the wound cleaned with copious amounts of water and Hydrogen peroxide. It was then wiped clean with sterile gauze swabs and Lugol’s iodine and then Oxytetracycline spray was applied topically. In addition 1500mgs Amoxycillin antibiotic was given intramuscularly to counter sepsis.

The hyena after darting  The hyena was revived after treatment

Reversal

Achieved by intramuscular administration of 6mgs Atipamizole and 12mgs Diprenorphine hydrochloride in one syringe. The hyena woke up after four minutes and ran away.

Prognosis.

Good

CASE #2 INJURED BULL ELEPHANT AT AITONG

Species: Elephant

Sex: Male

Age: Sub - Adult – 17 years

Location: Aitong

Date: 8th October 2014.

History.

This young bull of about 17yrs was seen limping and isolated by the Mara Elephant Project Rangers who immediately requested our intervention. This elephant was found alone in a thicket showing lameness on his right forelimb with the distal part of the limb looking swollen. He appeared to preserve this limb.

Immobilization, examination and treatment.

This young bull was immobilized by use of 12mgs Etorphine hydrochloride delivered through a 1.5ml Daninject dart. Because of the thicket, the elephant was darted from foot. The drugs took full effect in eight minutes with the elephant assuming left lateral recumbency position. After making sure the elephant was stable, examination was conducted which revealed an injury on the inner side of his right carpus. However, the whole joint was swollen. The shrubs were cleared from the area and the elephant was flipped over to lie on his right side for better access to the injury.

Onlookers watch over the elephant as he is made comfortable  The vet examines the elephants injury

There was a wound about 2inches in diameter and deep enough to access the joint cavity on the medial aspect of the right carpal joint. The wound was relatively fresh and could have been inflicted four days prior to intervention. The wound appeared to have been caused by spearing. The spear had punctured the joint capsule with joint fluid seeping from the wound upon probing. The wound was cleaned with copious amount of water, irrigated with Lugol’s iodine and packed with Cloxacillin ointment. Oxytetracycline spray was applied topically before green clay paste was used to coat the wound. In addition 15000mgs of Amoxicillin antibiotic and 2500mgs Flunixin meglumine anti-inflammatory was administered intramuscularly. 

The elephant had a wound on the joint from a spear  The elephants wound was cleaned throughly

Reversal

Achieved by administration of 36mgs Diprenorphine hydrochloride through the ear vein. The bull woke up after 2minutes and strode away.

The vet revives the elephant following treatment  The elephant moves off into the bush

Prognosis.

Favourable. The joint will likely heal with athrodesces.

CASE #3 TWO SNARED ZEBRA’S

Species: Zebra

Sex: Male and Female

Age: Adult

Location: Mara Triangle                   

 Date: 8th October 2014

 History.

These two zebras, a male and a female, were spotted by Mara triangle rangers with snares around their necks. The female had the snare tightly round the neck almost strangulating her while the male had the snare loosely hanging from his neck. Since both were of same age and size, the dosages used for their immobilizations were similar. Immobilizations and treatments were done in turns.

A snare is tightly wrapped around the zebra's neck  This zebra has a loose wire snare around the neck

Immobilization, examination and treatment.

Immobilization was achieved by use of combination of 5mgs Etorphine hydrochloride and 50mgs Azaperone in a 1.5 ml Daninject dart adminstered from a vehicle. It took on average 5minutes for the drugs to take full effect. The zebra with the loose snare who was a male was simply de-snared by releasing the wire which was plain and then revived by intravenous administration of 18mgs Diprenorphine through the jugular.

Thankfully the snare is not tight and hasn't caused an injury  The zebra is still strong and three people are needed

No additional treatment was instituted because there were no injuries seen. He woke up in two minutes upon revival and ran towards the other group of zebras.

The zebras eyes are covered as the snare is removed  The zebra is revived

As for the female, more aggressive treatment was carried out. The cable wire was embedded deep into the neck muscles almost strangulating her. The wire was cut loose and released. Examination revealed the structures around the neck were still sound. The resultant wound was cleaned with copious amount of water, before debriding with Hydrogen peroxide and gauze swabs.

The zebra's eyes are covered for the treatment  First the vet removes the snare

Luckily the snare hasn't damaged any vital structures in the neck

Iodine was then used to disinfect the wound and Oxytetracycline spray applied topically. In addition, 300mgs Amoxycillin antibiotic was administered intramuscularly before the zebra was revived with the same dosage of Diprenorphine as the male. She got up and joined the rest of zebras who were grazing close.

The snare wound is then cleaned and antibiotics adminstered  The zebra moves off to join it's herd after treatment

Prognosis.

Prognosis for both patients is good.

CASE #4 INJURED ELEPHANT BULL

Species: Elephant

Sex: Male

Age: Adult

Location: Masai Mara National Reserve                  

Date: 16th October 2014.

History.

This massive bull elephant in his 40’s was seen by the Masai Mara National Reserve patrol rangers on the morning of the 16th Oct isolated and in obvious pain. He was seen at Ngama Hills within the Masai Mara National Reserve. They immediately notified us and on general observation it was decided to immobilize him for closer examination and treatment. He had two visible wounds, one on the right forelimb and the other on the left rear limb.

Immobilization, examination and treatment.

This elephant was immobilized by use of 17mgs Etorphine hydrochloride delivered through a 3ml Daninject dart. Vehicle was used during darting. This elephant moved for ten minutes before giving in to the anesthesia by which time he had covered close to 400metres.He fell on his right lateral exposing the wound on the left limb. This was clearly a fresh spear wound on the lateral surface of the left thigh. The wound was almost 5 inches deep and two inches wide and still bleeding.

The Vet assesses the severity of the wound  The spear wound is cleaned

The wound was washed with water then debrided with Hydrogen peroxide. Sterile gauze was used to swab clean before Iodine was applied to disinfect. Oxytetracycline spray was also applied topically before green clay was packed into the wound. Two vehicles were used to flip the elephant over in order to examine the second injury on the right forelimb. This was a much deeper wound almost 8inches deep and three inches wide on the lateral surface of the right shoulder. It was clearly inflicted by a spear, was also fresh and could have been inflicted at the same time as the other wound and was managed the same way. In addition the elephant was given 15000mgs Amoxicillin antibiotic, 100mgs Dexamethasone sodium anti-inflammatory and 60ml injectable multivitamin all intramuscularly.

The vet uses green clay to pack the wound  The elephant walks off after treatment

Reversal

Achieved by intravenous administration of 48mgs Diprenorphine hydrochloride through superficial ear vein.

Prognosis.

Good.

CASE #5 SPEARED ELEPHANT BULL.

Species: Elephant

Sex: Male

Age: Adult

Location: Masai Mara National Reserve                  

Date; 17th October 2014.

History:

This elephant was seen and reported to us by Masai Mara National Reserve patrol rangers. The elephant had a spear sticking from the right side of his flank. We located this elephant at the Ashnil area within Masai Mara National Reserve. This elephant was in his 30’s.

Immobilization, examination and treatment.

Immobilization was achieved by use of 16mgs Etorphine hydrochloride delivered through a 3ml Daninject dart. The elephant was darted from foot since the terrain was rough and the elephant was in a thicket. As the drugs were taking effect, the elephant was pushed to move to a relatively open area. Full effects of the drugs were achieved after eight minutes with the elephant assuming sterna recumbency.

The elephant is darted successfully  A large spear is embedded 1 meter into this elephant

We decided to work on this elephant quickly while in this position since the spear and the wound were clearly visible and at the same time monitoring so as to avoid respiratory complications. Almost half the length of the spear, approximately 1 meter, was lodged inside the elephant. The spear was gently pulled back and there was a lot of peritonial fluid flowing from the wound. The wound was probed, copiously lavaged with clean water and disinfected with iodine before being packed with green clay.

The wound is cleaned after the spear was removed  Antibiotics were adminstered

Examination of the spear showed traces of faecal matter on its surface. This clearly showed that it had penetrated the lower gastro intestinal tract with real possibility of fatal peritonitis setting in and that the Peritoneum was already contaminated.15000mgs of Amoxicillin was administered intramuscularly before the elephant being revived.

Green clay was applied to the wound and the elephant revived  The spear found embedded in the elephant

Reversal.

Achieved by administration of 48mgs Diprenorphine hydrochloride through superficial ear vein. The elephant woke up in two minutes and moved away.

Prognosis.

Puncture of the gastrointestinal tract complicates the recovery of this elephant. There is a chance of peritonial contamination with acute peritonitis setting in. This in most cases is fatal. These facts were explained to the security team on the ground. Prognosis of this elephant was considered poor and the security on the ground was advised to be vigilant for any immediate eventuality. Close monitoring was recommended and any new developments to be reported.

CASE #6 DE-SNARING OF A HYENA

Species: Hyena

Sex: Male

Age: Adult

Location: Masai Mara National Reserve 

Date: 17th October 2014.

History.

This male adult hyena was spotted and reported to us by Masai Mara National Reserve rangers. He was seen in the morning emerging from a culvert in the Ashnil area within the reserve with a tight snare between the upper and lower jaw. We tracked this hyena and found him lying under a small tree. His body condition was still good.

Immobilization, examination and treatment

This hyena was captured by use of a combination of 3mg Etorphine and 0.5mg Medetomidine delivered through a 1.5ml Daninject dart. Darting was done using a vehicle. The drugs took effect and after 5minutes the hyena was fully anaesthesized. Opticlox eye ointment was applied to both eyes and a blind fold put in place.

A hyena with a tight snare around the jaw  The hyena's eyes were covered for treatment

Examination revealed a tight cable wire between the upper and lower jaw which had caused injuries on both commissures. The other oral structures including the tongue were intact and there was evidence this hyena had been feeding, but with difficulty. The tight wire was cut loose and removed. The resultant wound was cleaned with water, debrided with Hydrogen peroxide and wiped dry with sterile gauze swab. Iodine disinfectant was then used before oxytetracycline was applied. In addition, 2250mgs of Amoxicillin antibiotic and 10mgs Dexamethasone sodium anti-inflammatory was administered intramuscularly.

The vet examines the hyena's wound  The wound is cleaned and antibiotic spray applied

Reversal.

Achieved by intramuscular administration of combination of 2.5mgs Atipamizole and 9mgs Diprenorphine hydrochloride. The hyena woke up after four minutes and moved away.

Luckily, the snare didn't damage any vital structures  The hyena is revived after successful treatment

Prognosis.

Good.

CASE#7 POST MORTEM OF A CHEETAH

Species: Cheetah (Acynonyx  jubatus)

Age: Adult.

Sex: Male

Location: Keekorok, Masai Mara Reserve

Date: 22nd October 2014

History.

This cheetah was seen by the Masai Mara Reserve rangers on patrol who thought it could have been killed by lions who were seen nearby mating. They saw it late in the evening of 21st October 2014 and kept vigil so that scavengers could not interfere with it before the cause of death could be determined. The cheetah was believed to have been living with its brother.

Post mortem was carried out early in the morning of 22nd October 2014.

A cheetah died under mysterious circumstances  The vet conducts a postmortem after finding no external injuries

General observation of the carcass revealed the following.

  • The carcass appeared to have been in a fairly good body condition before death though moderate ascitis was evident
  • Rigor mortis had set in and was beginning to dissolve
  • Blood clots could be seen on nostrils and mouth
  • There was no sign of struggle at the scene of death
  • No external injuries were observed

On opening the carcass, the following findings were noted.

  1. There was average fat distribution and fairly good muscle cover
  2. The liver and kidneys appeared severely congested
  3. He appeared to have recently fed
  4. Both lungs had collapsed and were hemorrhagic
  5. The heart appeared small for his size. It was also unusually flaccid and the myocardium was thin. The heart chambers were empty, with a portion of the right ventricle muscles displaying excessive darkening
  6. All other organs appeared normal. The cranium and its contents including the nasal bones appeared sound

Conclusion

Of importance were the heart structure changes. This cheetah could have been suffering from a prolonged degenerative heart condition with possible myocardial infarcts resulting to heart failure. He could still get food because he had a brother helping him to hunt.

The heart appears abnormal   It was concluded the cheetah died from a degenerative heart defect

CASE#8 DE-SNARING OF A ZEBRA

Species: Zebra

Age: Adult

Sex: Female

Location: Mara Triangle

Date: 22nd October 2014

History.

This zebra was spotted and reported to us by Mara Triangle management. She was seen with a tight snare round her girth. The snare had caused deep injuries round her thoracic and shoulder muscles.

Immobilization, examination and treatment.

This zebra was immobilized by use of a combination of 5mgs Etorphine hydrochloride and 50mgs Azaperone in a 1.5ml Daninject dart. Darting was carried out using a vehicle. The drugs took effect after 5minutes with the zebra assuming left lateral recumbency.

This zebra had a tight wire snare wrapped around her girth  The zebra was also heavily pregnant and had this injury

Close examination revealed this zebra was heavily gravid and had to be quickly treated and revived to avoid compromising her life and that of the foal. The snare, which was a braided cable wire, was cut and released. The wounds were debrided with Hydrogen peroxide, rinsed with clean water, wiped with sterile gauze swabs and iodine was then used to disinfect. Oxytetracycline spray was then applied topically. In addition, this zebra received an intramuscular injection of 300mgs Amoxicillin antibiotic to counter sepsis.

The snare was removed with strong wire cutters  The wound was cleaned quickly after the wire was removed

Reversal.

Achieved by administration of 18mgs Diprenorphine hydrochloride intravenously through the jugular vein.

The pregnant zebra was quick to her feet  Free from the snare the zebra rejoins her herd

Prognosis.

Good.

CASE#9 RESCUE OF AN ORPHANED BABY ELEPHANT

Species: Elephant

Age: Infant

Sex: Female

Location: Mara Plains and Olare Orok Conservancy

Date: 22nd October 2014

History

This case was reported to us by Mara Elephant Project rangers with a team of conservationists who saw a dead supposedly nursing elephant at the border of Mara Plains and Olare Orok conservancy. A group of about 10 elephants were surrounding this elephant desperately trying to lift her up before giving up and staying vigil close by. One of two tiny calves in the group was positively identified to belong to this dead mother. Rescue of this calf was paramount before post mortem of the mother was carried out. An agreement to rescue this calf was arrived at after consultation with all stakeholders. 

An orphaned elephant is protected by her herd  Even with her families protection she cant survive without milk

Capture.

The calf was under tight protection of the matriarch and she kept pace with the other elephants. An attempt to capture her manually was futile as she was fast and constantly seeking the protection of the matriarch and other members of the family. A decision to dart her with a small dose of Azaperone was arrived at. She was darted with 30mgs Azaperone tartarate to make her drowsy and slow down. Meanwhile the other members of the family were scared away leaving her behind. This trick worked and she was eventually captured and restrained manually by use of ropes and taken by air to Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi.

The young elephant is captured and secured  She is transported to the Sheldrick's and named Roi

Meanwhile a postmortem on her mother was carried out immediately after the rescue revealed she died of spearing. A spear wound about two days old was found on the right side of her lower jaw. The wound was about two inches in diameter and had penetrated the jaw muscles to access the mouth cavity. The spear was likely laced with poison.

Roi's mother was sadly killed by a spear

CASE#10 TREATMENT OF AN INJURED ELEPHANT

Species: Elephant

Age: Adult – 20 years

Sex: Male

Location: Olarro Conservancy

Date: 26th October 2014

History.

This male elephant of about 20yrs old was seen with injuries by the Olarro Conservancy management who immediately sought our attention to help treat him.

The elephant was in a thicket with other members of the group. He appeared to be in pain and obvious injuries were seen on his left flank and left thigh. He was still feeding and had fairly good body condition. The other members of the group were very protective of him and the only chance to dart him came when he moved towards the edge of the thicket.

Immobilization, examination and treatment.

Immobilization was achieved by use of 15mgs Etorphine hydrochloride in a 1.5ml Daninject dart from a vehicle. As soon as he was darted he dashed back to the thicket but remained within sight. The drugs took full effect after eight minutes with the elephant assuming right lateral recumbency. A path was created for the team to access this elephant while the rest of the herd members were scared away by noise and vehicles. The position he adopted was advantageous to the working team because all the wounds were on the left side.

On examination, a spear wound estimated to be one week old was seen on the left flank. This wound was septic with a diameter of three inches and depth of nine inches. The wound was obliquely and ventrally directed but could not access the peritoneal cavity. The damage was limited to the abdominal muscles and the other wounds appeared to be old and healing.

The elephant is sedated for treatment  The spear wound is deep

The suppurating flank wound was drained, debrided with Hydrogen peroxide, rinsed with copious amount of water and wiped dry with gauze swabs. Iodine was poured to disinfect the injury before Oxytetracycline spray was applied topically. The wound was then packed with green clay to absorb bacterial and other toxins and also promote faster healing. The other wounds were handled the same way though there was hardly any pus. In addition, this elephant was given 15000mgs Amoxicillin Trihydrate antibiotic and 80ml injectable multivitamins all intramuscularly.

The vet cleaned the wound extensively  Antibiotics are administered before revival

Reversal.

Achieved by administration of 42mgs Diprenorphine hydrochloride through the ear vein. This elephant woke up after three minutes to join the rest of the elephants who were not far away.

The vet reverses the anaesthesia   The elephant wakes up and moves off into the bush

Prognosis.

Good

Conclusion

The Mara mobile veterinary unit is grateful to all the stakeholders who helped in one way or another by reporting and assisting to treat the cases attended to. Many thanks to KWS management for their continuous support to the unit and to the Minara foundation through The David Sheldrick Wildlife trust for their continued facilitation of the unit and collaboration with KWS which has seen many animals rescued and saved from unwarranted sufferings.