Mara Mobile Veterinary Unit - April 2014

Introduction: The month was characterized by drop in precipitation and reduced tourism activities


The month was characterized by drop in precipitation and reduced tourism activities. Clinical cases handled were fewer compared to previous month. A sad incident involving carnivore poisoning was recorded after a long period from the last reported incident. The following are activities undertaken during the month.

Case#1 Postmortem of an elephant:

Date: 8th April2014

Species: Elephant

Sex: Male

Age: Adult (45-50yrs)

Location: Naboisho conservancy

GPS: 36 M 0764220 UTM 9847674


KWS security patrol team came across this elephant carcass near Naboisho airstrip while doing their routine patrol. The elephant could have died the night proceeding the day of postmortem. They requested veterinary services to ascertain cause of death. Both tusks were intact.

General examination of the carcass:

The carcass was found lying on his left side with scavengers having ripped open the abdomen and part of the thorax. There was no evidence of struggle before death at the scene. The elephant appeared to have been in good body condition before death. Except for openings created by scavengers, no other wounds were visible externally. The carcass appeared fresh though. Both tusks were retrieved and handed over to KWS security staff for safe custody.

Post mortem examination:

On closer examination of the carcass, the following were noted; •    The bowels had been exteriorized and ruptured by scavengers. •    The heart and pleural organs had been partly eaten by the scavengers. •    All other organs appeared grossly normal.                                                                                                        


Owing to the state of the carcass the cause of death could not be grossly determined. The integrity of the carcass and its organs had been interfered with by the scavengers. 

Case#2 sampling of buffalos for trypanosomosis:

Date: 8th – 17th April2014

Species: Buffaloes

Location: Masai Mara Ecosystem


In order to map the distribution of trypanosoma parasites, Pan-African Tsetse and Trypanosomiasis Eradication campaign with other stakeholders, KWS included embarked on sampling program on susceptible species countrywide. Masai mara ecosystem was identified as one of the target areas for sampling. The ten day exercise saw 54 adult buffalos sampled. Among the samples collected were whole blood, ticks, and tissue for DNA analysis. GPS location for each of the individuals and their approximate ages by dentition was captured. Other morphometric measurements were also recorded.


Immobilization was achieved by use of 5mg etorphine HCL and 50mg azaperone delivered through Dan inject darting system. Reversal was achieved through intravenous administration of 36mg diprenorphine HCL. The exercise was successful. 

Case#3 Treatment of a male elephant:

Date: 13th April2014

Species: Elephant

Sex: Male

Location: Mara Bush Tops


The management of mara bushtop hotel called to report an injured elephant amongst a resident herd. The mobile veterinary team responded immediately.

General examination:

The elephant was in company of another older bull though he could not keep pace as he was limping on his right forelimb. The wound was discernible from a distance.

Immobilization, examination and treatment:

Immobilization was achieved by use of 16mg etorphine HCL delivered through a 2ml Dan inject dart. Vehicle was used when darting. It took 8min for the elephant to be fully immobilized just at the edge of a thicket. Examination revealed a deep wound on the lateral surface of his right shoulder. The wound was sharp edged most likely inflicted by a spear. It was about 4Inches in diameter and 8inches deep. The wound could have been 1 week old. No foreign body was found in the wound when probed. The wound was copiously lavaged with clean water before being debrided with hydrogen peroxide and swabs. Lugols iodine was applied and green clay used to cover the wound. In addition 15000mgs Amoxicillin antibiotic was administered into different sites intramuscularly. 100mg Dexamethasone sodium was given intramuscularly as an anti-inflammatory.


This was achieved by administration of48mgs diprenorphine hydrochloride intravenously via the ear vein.

Prognosis: Good.

Case #4 suspected predator poisoning:

Date: 13th April 2014

Species: Hyenas and Jackals

Location: Talek Area

GPS location: 36 M 0748498 UTM 9837363


Masai mara national reserve chief park warden called to report sudden deaths in hyenas and jackals within the park close to Talek area. He was advised to note Gps location of each carcass, and then transfer all the carcasses to a central place. This was to ease postmortem examination and guard against further scavenging as this appeared like a poisoning case.

Postmortem examination:

The post mortem carried out on one of the hyena carcasses was representative for the other carcasses which included two other female hyenas, a male and a female black backed jackal and a tawny eagle. All were collected dead within a radius of 500meters. The hyena carcass appeared to have been in perfect body condition before death with active mammaries suggesting she was nursing.

Visual Examination of the extertior:

•    Blood tinged froth from both nostrils and mouth. •    Rigor mortis was beginning to dissolve and the carcass was less than 24 hours old. •    Pinkish powder was observed sticking to the hairs of her front limbs. On opening the carcass, the following were noted:

i)    Both lungs were haemorrhagic. Extension of  haemorrhage was evident in the entire respiratory tree including the bronchioles, bronchi, trachea and the nostrils. ii)    Mucus membranes were severely darkened. The liver, kidneys and spleen appeared mottled, and could easily break on handling. iii)    Both large and small intestines were congested with pasty chocolate coloured contents. iv)    The stomach contents showed that this hyena had fed on a bovine calf (domestic cow) less than twenty four hours prior to death. Part of Skin of the calf together with part of the front limb was retrieved from the stomach. The inner surface of the skin was laced with a pink substance which could have been poisonous. These stomach contents were collected as samples and have been sent to Government chemist for analysis to identify the chemical used for poisoning. Carbamates have been incriminated in various carnivore poisonings before and are among the substances requested to be tested in the samples.


The pattern of deaths, post mortem picture and strange substances found in the stomach of this hyena suggest poisoning as the cause of death. All carcasses collected were dumped into a twenty feet deep pit and buried and contaminated areas burned by help of petrol. County staff were advised to comb the area and collect any other carcasses and treat them in a similar way to minimize exposure. The type of poison used will be known as soon as the samples are tested by Government Chemist where the samples have been submitted to. 

Case#5: Retreatment of Siena, the lioness. 

Date: 14th April 2014

Species: Lioness

Sex: Female

Location: Govenor's Camp


Siena is a mature lioness aged 8 years. She is a mother of several members of the famous Mash pride. She is a successful hunter and currently nursing three cubs who are four months old. She got a bad injury after being gored on her left flank by a buffalo while hunting with other members of the pride. First treatment was carried out on 4th April 2014 and second assessment which involved replacement of fallen sutures done on10th April 2014.This time round the wound appeared wet and required cleaning and antibiotic application.

Immobilisation, examination and treatment:

Immobilization was achieved by use of a combination of 3mg dexmedetomidine and 280mgs Ketamine delivered through a 3ml Daninject dart. Lioness was fully anaesthetized after five minutes. Examination revealed a discharging wound which required dressing but the sutures were still intact. Treatment involved cleaning the wound carefully with swabs and surgical spirit, application of iodine and cloxacillin antibiotic cream. Green clay was then applied.


This was achieved by administration of 18mgs atipamizole intramuscularly one hour after immobilization.

Prognosis: Guarded. Will require close and regular monitoring. 

Case#6 Injured Elephant:

Date: 15th April 2014

Species: Elephant

Sex: Male

Location: Mara North Conservancy


This young elephant bull was spotted by Mara North Conservancy rangers isolated and moving with difficulty. He showed an obvious limp on his rare right limb.

Immobilization and examination:

Immobilization was achieved by administration of 14mgs etorphine hydrochloride through a 2ml Dan inject dart by vehicle. The drugs took effect after 8minutes with the elephant falling on her left side. Examination revealed a suspected arrow wound on the medial surface of his right tarsus causing severe swelling of the joint. Other shallow wounds were seen on the lateral right hip and lateral surface of the right carpus.


All the wounds were washed with clean water, debrided with hydrogen peroxide and lugols iodine applied. Green clay was also packed into the bigger wound. In addition 150000mgs amoxicillin was given intramuscularly.


This was achieved by intravenous administration of 42mgs diprenorphine hydrochloride into the ear vein

Prognosis: Good.

Case#7 Collection of blood from an elephant bull:

Date: 18th April 2014

Species: Elephant

Sex: Male

Location: Masai Mara Ecosystem


Serum from the blood will be extracted and used to boost immunity and defense of the elephant orphans at elephant orphanages.

Immobilization and blood collection:

A mature healthy bull was identified as a candidate. He was immobilized by use of 17mgs etorphine hydrochloride delivered through 2ml Dan inject dart by vehicle. The elephant was fully immobilized in eight a minute upon which five pints of blood was collected from ear vein. This was immediately sent for processing by competent laboratories.


Achieved by administration of 54mgs of diprenorphine hydrochloride through the ear vein. 

Case#8 Post mortem of an elephant:

Date: 20th April 2014

Age: 15 years

Sex: Female

Location: Near Ngama Hills, Masai Mara National Reserve

GPS: 36 M 0759831 UTM 9823725


This elephant carcass was discovered by Masai mara game rangers while on routine patrol and the chief park warden informed the mobile veterinary unit. He requested for a postmortem to be carried to ascertain cause of death.

General examination:

The carcass was found on sternal recumbency already putrefied and scavenged on. 3rd stage Maggots were beginning to infest the carcass. The anterior body parts were already dismembered by scavengers and predators including lions that were found on the site. A spear was retrieved about 20meters from the carcass most likely having fallen just before the elephant died. Both tusks were intact. The elephant appeared to have been in good body condition before death. The carcass was about five days old.

Significant findings:

Closer examination revealed a deep sharp edged wound about 2 inches in diameter on his right flank. This was a penetrating wound suspected to have been caused by spearing right into the peritoneum and the large intestines. Fecal material was seeping through the opening.


Postmortem picture shows this elephant died of complications occasioned by spearing. These injuries lead to septic peritonitis and eventual death. Recovery of the spear and wound pattern suggest involvement of human activity on the death of this elephant. 


The Masai mara mobile veterinary unit wishes to thank all the stakeholders who provided information on the animals that required veterinary intervention during the month. Much thanks to the David Sheldrick wildlife trust and Kenya wildlife service who have partnered and facilitated the unit. Their input has been enormous, leading to timely and effective interventions. Report by: Dr.Campaign Limo