The Mara Mobile Veterinary Unit

Field Report - May 2008

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TREATMENT OF THREE ROTHSCHILD GIRAFFES IN RUMA NATIONAL PARK:

Introduction:

Ruma National park is home to over 100 Rothschild giraffes which are well distributed within Lambwe valley in the park. The giraffes are always found grazing freely with other common wildlife species in the park such as topi, buffaloes, roan antelopes, oribi and impalas. Giraffes are therefore one of the key species that attract tourists in the park. There have been constant risks of the animals being poached or trapped by snares set by people searching for game meat. Other wild animals in the park are also targeted by poachers but giraffes seem to be the main target going by the number of sighted cases. Recently the veterinary team while conducting African swine fever disease managed to remove snares from two giraffes and treated another giraffe for wounds inflicted by snares. The cases were reported by the regular patrol team in the park and were handled successfully as indicated in the report.

First case

This was an adult female giraffe that had been sighted with a long wire tightly hanging around the neck. The wire was tight but had not inflicted any traumatic injury to the giraffe, it only interfered with the free movement and feeding of the animal. When the veterinary team arrived to treat it, it was found in a large herd of other giraffes near Nyadenda gate. 

Chemical restrain

The animal was then captured by chemical immobilization through darting using 13mgs of etorphine hydrochloride combined with 30mgs of Xylazine hydrochloride. It took about 5 minutes to become recumbent.

The wire was then cut off using a wire cutter and blood samples obtained from the jugular vein that will be analyzed in the lab for health monitoring purposes.

Cutting the snare in order to remove it  Taking a blood sample

Anaesthesia revival

The animal was then quickly revived from anaesthesia using 5mgs of Atipamezole hydrochloride combined with 36mgs of Diprenorphine hydrochloride administered through the jugular vein. It woke up after about 2 minutes and joined others.

Prognosis

Prognosis was good since the wire had not inflicted any injury to the animal and it was still in good body condition.

Second case

The second giraffe was found in the same herd from where the first one was treated. It was an adult female giraffe that had a severe septic wound on the corium of the right hind limb extending proximally above the hoof. It was unable to move properly and it was in a deep pain. The animal had lost much of its body condition probably due to its inability to walk, feed and take water freely. The veterinary team then decided to attend to it.

Chemical restrain

The animal was then captured by chemical immobilization through darting using 13mgs of etorphine hydrochloride combined with 30mgs of Xylazine hydrochloride. It took about 5 minutes to become narcotized then ropes were used to knock it down.

Treatment

The wound was examined and found to have no foreign material in it. It was then cleaned and debrided using 10% hydrogen peroxide solution then tincture of iodine applied. The wound was then sprayed with oxytetracycline spray. Antibiotics and antinflammatory drugs were administered intramuscularly to take care of any opportunistic bacterial infection.

The giraffe gets to its feet after treatment

Blood sample was then collected from the jugular vein that will be analyzed in the lab for health monitoring purposes.

Anaesthesia revival

The animal was then revived from anaesthesia using 5mgs of Atipamezole hydrochloride combined with 36mgs of Diprenorphine hydrochloride administered through the jugular vein. It then rose up slowly and took off to join the rest of the herd.

Prognosis

Prognosis was favourable after the treatment but it was in a poor body condition and unable to move and feed adequately, this could reduce its chances of survival.

Third case:

This was also an adult female giraffe that had been sighted with a long wire loosely hanging around the neck. The wire had not inflicted any traumatic injury to the giraffe, it only interfered with the free movement and feeding of the animal. It was found in a large herd of other giraffes just in the same location as the other cases.

Chemical restrain

The animal was then captured by chemical immobilization through darting using 13mgs of etorphine hydrochloride combined with 30mgs of Xylazine hydrochloride. It took about 6 minutes to become recumbent.

The wire was then cut off using a wire cutter and blood samples obtained from the jugular vein that will be analyzed in the lab for health monitoring purposes.

The immobilised giraffe

Anaesthesia revival

The animal was then quickly revived from anaesthesia using 5mgs of Atipamezole hydrochloride combined with 36mgs of Diprenorphine hydrochloride administered through the jugular vein. It woke up after about 3 minutes and joined others.

Prognosis

Prognosis was good since the wire had not inflicted any injury to the animal and it was still in good body condition.

Treatment of a giraffe in Kawai area near Mara Triangle

The Mara Conservancy patrol team reported a case of a giraffe that had a severe wound on the left thigh. The giraffe was in a herd of more than 50 individuals near Kawai centre at a GPS location S- 01. 15. 140; E- 034. 57. 589, over the Mara Triangle escarpment. It was an adult female giraffe that had stayed with the wound for a few days and septiceamia had set in.

Chemical immobilization and capture

The giraffe was captured by darting using 12mgs of etorphine Hcl combined with 30mgs of Xylazine Hcl, it took about 6 minutes to become recumbent. Further restraint was achieved using ropes.

Treatment

The wound was cleaned and debrided using hydrogen peroxide solution followed by an application of tincture of iodine and oxytetracycline spray. The wound was already septic and had maggots which were flushed out using water and hydrogen peroxide. Antibiotics also administered parenterally through the muscles to enhance healing process.

The wound was on the giraffes left thigh  A close up of the wound covered in flies

Cleaning the wound  The wound after it was cleaned and treated

Anaesthesia revival and prognosis

The animal was revived from anaesthesia using 24mgs of Diprenorphine Hcl combined with 5mgs of Atipamezole Hcl. Prognosis was good because the injury was superficial and only affected the soft tissues.

Treatment of lion in Talek

Lions are very much prone to traumatic injuries while hunting for food, often they sustain fractures, severe wounds and may even die in some instances. This time round, rangers on patrol mission came across two male lions of which one was lame and preferred lying down most of the time and unable to hunt. This was found near Talek gate of Masai Mara National Reserve at a GPS location, S- 01. 23. 144; E- 035. 01. 239.

Chemical restrain

The lion was captured using 350mgs of Xylazine Hcl combined with 350mgs of Ketamine Hcl, it was darted on the right thigh and became recumbent after about 5 minutes. It was then blindfolded and transferred to a cool shade under a tree from where it was examined and treated.

Examination and treatment

Body condition was good and the vital physiological parameters were recorded as follows;

Respiration rate 28 cycles/minute, deep and regular, Pulse rate 72 beats/minute, strong and regular, body temperature of 37 degrees Celsius, buccal, conjuctiva and anal mucosal membranes had pink normal colour, capillary refill time (CRT) was 2 seconds. External parasites like ticks and lion flies were detected on the skin. The animal had a closed fracture of one of the metatarsal bones of the right front leg. This elicited pain and joint weakness that resulted into lameness and inability to walk and hunt.

Treatment

The animal was provided with symptomatic treatment that included antibiotics (Amoxycillin), multivitamins and dexamethasone. Eyes were well treated with Opticlox eye ointment to prevent desiccation and infection.  An infusion of dextrose solution was also administered through the jugular vein to help supplement glucose and energy. 

The immobilsed lion

Examining the front leg  The lion after it was treated

Samples collection

Blood samples were collected in EDTA coated tubes and plain tubes coated with clot retractor and kept in a cool box, tissue samples kept in ethanol solution and ectoparasites such as ticks and lion flies collected and stored in 70% ethanol. These samples were then processed and stored in KWS lab for further analysis and for future reference.

Anaesthesia Revival

The animal was revived from anaesthesia after about 45 minutes using 15mgs of Atipamezole Hcl administered intramuscularly, it took about 15 minutes to rise up, but it was still unable to move. Prognosis was good because there was no infection on the injured leg; it had good appetite and was being supported by the other male lion around. It was to be monitored on a daily basis by security rangers who would report on its progress regularly.

Conclusion

Most of the cases attended to by the Mara veterinary unit involved giraffes, three giraffes were desnared in Ruma N. Park, another giraffe treated in Kawai area and a lion treated in Talek area during the month of May, 08. Disease surveillance activities carried out included investigations and data collection for sarcoptic mange infestation in cheetahs, Thompson’s gazelles and other wildlife. African swine fever disease surveillance in Ruma N. Park was also revisited for more data and samples collection. Elephant monitoring in Ewaso-Ngiro area also continued with an intensive search for the collared female, KWS helicopter was used for many hours trying to locate the collared female but it was not found that day. The elephant monitoring team will continue searching for it until the collar is recovered and data obtained.

Reported by; Dr. Domnic Mijele