The Amboseli Mobile Veterinary Unit

Field Report - January 2017

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FIELD VETERINARY REPORT FOR SOUTHERN CONSERVATION AREA MOBILE VETERINARY UNIT FOR THE MONTH OF JANUARY 2017

Reported by Ndambiri Ephantus

Introduction

The Amboseli ecosystem received little rainfall, much less than the usual seasonal expectations. This has adverse effects on the amount of foliage for the wild animals as the next rains are not expected until the beginning of April and could result in an increase in Human-Wildlife Conflict.

The Southern Conservation Area Mobile Vet Unit has been busy for the better part of month as it stood in for Tsavo Vet Unit which resumed duty later in the month from annual leave.

Notable during the month was absence of any elephant injury cases and the successful rescue of a baby female elephant abandoned by the mother after falling into a water well.

Following are veterinary activities attended to during the month;

CASE #1 POSTMORTEMS OF TWO BLACK RHINOS

Date of death: 31st December 2016

Date of postmortem: 2nd January 2017

Species: Black Rhino          

Sex: Females

Age: Adults

Location: Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary; Tsavo West

History

It was reported on 2/1/2017 by Tsavo West that a postmortem was required of two black rhinos which had been poached on 31/12/2016. The incidence occurred at around 1700hrs when gunshots (burst) were heard. The carcasses were spotted by the help of a KWS fixed wing on 1/1/2017.

General examination

The two carcasses were just a few meters apart. The small female was found on sternal recumbence while the big female was found on left recumbence. Maggots had already invaded the carcasses especially on sites where predation had taken place. All horns had been removed by the poachers leaving open nasal cavities. The small female had at least six gunshot penetrations while the female had at least five. The exact number of gunshots could not be determined as the carcasses had been interfered with by predators.

Postmortem on a poached black rhino  Postmortem on a poached black rhino

Postmortem Findings

The big adult had only one bullet path that was visible internally. This is the one just in front of the right shoulder. It penetrated the chest cavity at right rib number five causing shattering fracture, through the right lung lobe, through diaphragm almost at the center, through the gastric stomach through the ventral colon to lodge at the inguinal region just under the vulva skin. This caused massive internal bleeding both into the chest and abdominal cavities accompanied by rupture of the colon. The bullet head was recovered at inguinal area.

The small female had several lethal wounds; one was to the right rump which fractured the hip bone as it went internally through hitting the kidneys. Another was to the left shoulder which went through the chest cavity hitting the two lung lobes, fracturing the right rib number three causing severe soft tissue injury around that area. Another went in at left lumbar area hitting the left kidney and ruptured the dorsal colon. One also went in at the right chest cavity just behind the right shoulder and is thought to have hit the liver near the hepatic portal vein. Another though not lethal was just in front of the lethal one at left shoulder. It was retrieved just some few centimeters lodged into shoulder muscles. All caused massive vital organ injuries. Just adjacent to the carcass on the left belly side a spent cartilage was recovered

Postmortem Diagnosis

Both rhinos died as a result of shock secondary to resultant injuries to vital organs inflicted by gunshots during poaching.

CASE #2 TREATMENT OF AN INJURED LION

Date: 5th January 2017

Species: Lion         

Sex: Male

Age: Sub Adult

Location: Ngutuni Lodge; Tsavo East

History

A report of an emaciated weak and seemingly injured lion was made by Mr. Trevor who had been informed by the manager of Ngutuni Lodge on 4/1/2017 in the evening prompting a visit on the following day.

Despite being under pressure for attention the Unit was surprised to hear that the lion was not at the location regardless of the long journey from Amboseli. It had last been sighted having a drink near the lodge waterhole the previous night. The suspected area of residence was combed for more than two hours all in vain.

The manager was met and taken through the procedure of such a report and what ensues thereof. He promised to make a more sound report and follow-up thereafter. He was instructed to report the matter at Tsavo East KWS Office once sighted so that necessary action can be taken.

Prognosis

From the picture shared through social media it appeared to have very poor prognosis.

A lion reported by social media

CASE #3 CASE REVIEW OF A TREATED ELEPHANT

Date: 6th January 2017

Species: Elephant          

Sex: Male

Age: Adult

Location: Oldonyo Wuas

History

This bull had suffered two spear wound injuries following a fracas where one person had been killed by an elephant about a month earlier. He was treated on 6/12/2016 and had to be reviewed after ten days. He went missing after the initial treatment until he resurfaced on the 5/1/2017. A call was made to that unit and the review was scheduled for the next day.

 Observation

The bull was observed when in motion and still. The right forelimb, though slightly swollen at metacarpus due to the initial injury, did not show lameness. The two wounds had regressed sufficiently and the two fore limbs were in use without any favor. Joint flexing in both limbs were equally the same and he appeared to be in no pain. The injury to the left rump had healed significantly and one could not note anything needing attention. He was in good health.

There was no need to dart the animal as he had showed tremendous improvement. Meanwhile he will remain under observation for another month.

Review of a speared elephant; now doing well

Prognosis

It has favorable prognosis

CASE #4 COLLARING OF A LIONESS

Date: 6th January 2017

Species: Lion         

Sex: Female

Age:  Adult

Location: Oldonyo Wuas, Cyhulu Hills

History

This lioness (Nolewua) is six years and nine months old and considered to be among the best candidates for collaring. She is under the surveillance of the Lion Guardian and her dispersal area needed to be established as she shares the niche together with cattle. The first attempt at collaring was on 10/12/2016 during the evening and she failed to yield to call backs made. Another attempt was made when she was sighted within the same area this time in the company of a male. She was lured away from the lava rocks by call backs so that once darted she could not find her way back to hiding before the full anesthetic could take place.

Immobilization and collaring

Bait was secured tightly onto a strong tree trunk and dragged from the edges of lava where the pair were seen copulating. Call backs were made and after an hour both the male and the lioness approached the bait. The candidate was darted as she attempted to tear the bait with 300mgs Ketamine and 4mgs Medetomidine. They attempted to run into lava area but were kept away by the use of vehicles. She was completely anaesthetized in 16 minutes and assumed right lateral recumbence. The male kept guard by her side and attempted to attack the car but he was confronted head on and ran away. He was chased into the lava area and one vehicle kept an eye on him during the exercise.

A lioness is earmarked for darting  The lioness takes the bait

The GPS collar was fitted allowing enough space for breathing and ingestion. The skin laceration noted on the shoulder area was sprayed with Tetracycline wound spray. Vital parameters were monitored every seven minutes; breathing rate averaged 17/minute and pulse was 58/minute. She had had a good meal the previous night as indicated by the extended belly.

A collar is fitted  A collar is fitted

Reversal

Reversal of the an anesthetic was achieved with 60mgs Doxapram and 35mgs Atipamezole in one single intramuscular injection into the left neck muscles after one hour. Surprisingly she was up in less than a minute and jumped away about four meters. She slept four about three minutes and was fully up there after and walked away.

CASE #5 LION COLLARING

Date: 8th January 2017

Species: Lion         

Sex: Male

Age:  Adult

Location: Olbiris, Cyhulu Hills

History

Two brother lions were suspected as perennial boma raiders, attacking cattle calves or shoats within the area. In a previous week alone they had killed six calves and eleven shoats. They prefer smaller prey so that they can easily carry the carcasses away into the nearby lava flow area. O of the males needed to be collared so that it can be proven without a doubt that they are raiders and also assist in preparing the boma owners to be on guard if they are near the bomas. This would also assist the PAC team to scare them away from the bomas thus preventing predation. Their dispersal area will also be determined.

Lions are in direct conflict with people due to livestock predation

Collaring

The Lion Guardian Surveillance Unit provided the bait to lure the lions out of lava area in company of call backs. After trying several call backs they failed to present to the bait and moved back about half a kilometer. After half an hour we found the candidate lying 20 meters away from the bait after having his fill while the other lion was still feeding. He was approached carefully whilst two vehicles were strategically placed to keep him away the lava after darting.

He was darted with 325mgs Ketamine and 4mgs Medetomidine into the right shoulder. He walked away about ten meters from the dart site and the drugs took effect seven minutes later in open savanna. The collar was fitted allowing ease of neck manipulation both in feeding and ambulation. Vital parameters were monitored throughout the exercise with pulse averaging 62/minute and breathing at 20/minute. There was no hyper salivation or eye or ear stimulus. Two vehicles strategically blocked the darted lion from the vision of the other male which was still feeding. A ranger kept an eye on the free lion throughout the exercise.

One of the male lions is darted for conflict  Other measurements are taken

A collar is fitted

Reversal

Reversal of the anesthetic was achieved 45 minutes after the initial darting with 60mgs Doxapram and 15mgs Atipamezole in one single intramuscular injection into the right neck muscles. He woke up after twenty minutes and headed straight to the bait. The other lion had already left the bait and kept vigil about 50 meters away.

CASE #6 RESCUE OF A BABY ELEPHANT

Date: 8th January 2017

Species: Elephant          

Sex: Female

Age: Calf

Location: Lengolo; Kitirua Community Conservancy

History

This baby elephant was reported by the manager of Kitirua community Conservancy to the Amboseli Community Warden who then informed Vet Unit. It appeared to have been abandoned by the mother after falling into a well with water reaching half the shoulder. Big Life Rangers retrieved it from the well and transported it to the Amboseli air strip where the vet would ascertain its health status and make an informed decision.

A baby elephant is found trapped in a well  The sides are too steep for the baby elephant

A baby elephant is found trapped in a well  A rescue team helps the baby out

 Examination

The vet unit examined the calf which was shivering under an acacia tree. Its temperature indicated hypothermia and it was moved to an open area for sun exposure. Meanwhile it was established it had no external injuries except skin abrasion at the withers which was sprayed with Tetracycline wound spray. Two pints of Sodium Chloride infusion fluid was administered orally after establishing it had suckling reflex. He had slight hyperpnoea with shallow breaths. Pulse was 86/minutes. A call was made to DSWT Nairobi Nursery to make arrangement to airlift the calf to Nairobi. Meanwhile monitoring continued with temperature increasing to 37.0 and 38.4 and it was taken back to a shady area. It kept on wobbling from attempts to sleep while standing and on one occasion he laid down only to get up shortly after.

The elephant is extracted and waits for the rescue plane  The elephant is fed re-hydration salts

Rescue

The chartered Boskovic caravan arrived at around 1500hrs and before loading it was fed two litres of milk supplement formula and water by the nursery keepers. It was prepared for airlift by laying it on soft transit material and lifted into the caravan, secured by the help of straps. Final temperature was 38.1.

The plane and the nursery keepers arrive  The elephant is secured on the plane for the trip to the nursery

Prognosis

Before adaptation to new environment it is assumed to have guarded prognosis.

CASE #7 POSTMORTEM OF A CHEETAH

Date of death: 11th Jan 2017

Date of postmortem: 11th Jan 2017

Species: Cheetah          

Sex: Male

Age: Adult

Location: Kulalu Camp, Galana Wildlife Conservancy

History

The Amboseli Vet was sought on 10/1/2017 from Kaluku DSWT Operation Center concerning a lame weak cheetah at Kulalu Camp which needed treatment. The case was attended to on the following day due to exigency of duties. DSWT de-snaring team in Voi was the team on ground monitoring the cheetah and the Kulalu Camp crew, led by Manager Mr. John Byrne, accompanied the vet team to the location where the ill cheetah was.

A cheetah is found in an emaciated state

Immobilization, examination and treatment

The adult male was under a thicket on an ant-hill when the vet team arrived. A dart composing of 100mgs Ketamine and 1mg Medetomidine was prepared but unfortunately the candidate depicted poor anesthetic condition. It was very thin showing malnutrition and bony prominences were very apparent so the team retreated and approached a second time with a dart of 75mgs Ketamine and 0.75mgs Medetomidine.

Once the anesthetic took full effect the cheetah was examined. It was breathing at six per minute with temperature of 38.0 degree Celsius. It was thin with a body score of one on a scale of 1-5 with five. There was an open skin injury on the lame right limb at the metatarsus and another one on the tarsus laterally. The limb was closely examined, palpated and listened to for any crepitation all of which was absent ruling out fracture. It was eminent that the soft tissue injury was severe considering the swinging leg lameness. The suspected diagnosis was a dysfunctional right hip joint.

The cheetah is immobilised for examination  The injury is too severe and caused lack of body condition

As the injury had incapacitated the cheetah to a state of emaciation, it was decided to euthanize the animal to reduce suffering. It was also at risk of being attacked by other predators because of its inability to protect itself, which could only cause further suffering and injury. Euthanasia was achieved by use of 2000mgs Sodium Pentobarbitone intracardially. Postmortem ensured immediately.

Postmortem Diagnosis

A postmortem was carried out with two objectives; to retrieve the trophies skin, head and claws and to make a definitive diagnosis.

The carcass was dry and pale due to dehydration. Upon further examination it was established that the proximal patella ligament was torn and patella displaced distally. This secondarily caused slight dislocation of the right hip joint as depicted by congestion of round ligament attachments. The soft tissue injury caused severe lameness making the animal unable to fend for itself thus the poor health status witnessed.

The retrieved trophies were handed over to Tsavo East armory official for safe custody and onward transmission.

 Conclusion

The injuries suggest an unsuccessful hunting mission.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

We wish to extend our gratitude to KWS fraternity, DSWT and other friends of conservation like Big Life, Lion Guardian, Galana (Kulalu Camp) and Kitirua conservancies for assistance accorded during the month. It was through eminence sponsorship of Amboseli Mobile Vet Unit by DSWT that all cases were attended to promptly. Kudos all