Mara Mobile Veterinary Unit - April 2017

Published on the 18th of April, 2017



By Dr. Campaign Limo


This month the Masai Mara area has received sporadic rain fall and water and forage is relatively available for wildlife. Possibly due to the onset of the rains the area has been relatively calm and few cases have been reported. The Vet Unit investigated an incident involving the mysterious loss of two young elephant bulls at Nguruman and conducted a post mortem. Samples were collected to help identify the cause of their deaths and the results of the analysis are being awaited.

The following are cases attended during the month;


Date: 8th April 2017

Age: Adult

Species: African lion

Sex: Female

Location: Masai Mara National Reserve (Musiara area)


This lioness was seen with an injury to her right hind limb by Masai Mara National Reserve Rangers on patrol and the Governors Camp Guides who sought our help treat her. This lioness was found relaxing under tree with her two one year old female cubs. The injury was evident from a distance as she displayed a slight limp while moving. They all appeared hungry.

Immobilization, examination and treatment

Restraint was achieved chemically by use of a combination of 4.8mgs Medetomidine and 200mgs Ketamine in a 3ml dan-inject dart. The vet approached the lion in a vehicle to dart her and it took ten minutes for her to be completely anaesthetized with the cubs moving a short distance away.

Examination revealed a moderately deep injury most likely inflicted by a sharp object. Part of the muscle tissue was severed but luckily the wound was not infected. The wound edges were debrided and deeper layers stitched together with absorbable suture whilst the skin layers were closed with nylon. Tincture of iodine and Cloxacillin ointment were infused into the wound to prevent infection and hasten healing.

Additional treatments included parenteral administration of 3000mgs amoxicillin antibiotic and 80mgs Ivermectin parasiticide.

Reversal and Prognosis

Reversal of the anaesthetic was achieved by intramuscular administration of 20mg Atepamezole hydrochloride one hour after immobilization. She got up after eight minutes to join her cubs.

Prognosis is good.


Date: 9th April 2017

Age: Sub Adult

Species: Elephant X 2

Sex: Male

Location: Masai Mara National Reserve (Musiara area)


On Sunday 9th April 2017, Mara Mobile Veterinary Unit got a call from KWS officer in-charge Nguruman station requesting a post mortem of two young elephants found dead by a water pool on the morning of this date at GPS S 01.98168  E036.0824. The two elephants were reported to have been in a big herd and none of them had been seen with visible problems the previous day. They died hardly 5 meters from each other and under similar circumstances, immediately after drinking water.

It was reported there were new rains in the area with plenty of pasture sprouting.

General examination of the carcasses

Both carcasses were intact with no visible injuries noted externally. They had been pulled some distance away from the pool to avoid pollution of the water as they deteriorated. From the appearance, they died under similar circumstances possibly soon after drinking water and were in good body condition just before death. Brief interview with first witnesses and the locals indicated there were no recent reported deaths in both domestic and wild species and these elephants were seen the previous day in good body condition. They could have died overnight since the carcasses appeared relatively fresh, less than eight hours old. An aerial and ground check on the other herd members nearby indicated they were fine.

Post mortem was conducted on both carcasses in turns with the following picture.

Elephant 1

  • This elephant was the bigger of the two, approximately a 12 year old bull and in perfect body condition. A body score of 4 in a scale of 1 -5, where 1 is poor with 5 good
  • There were no physical injuries seen, but severe bloating was evident
  • There was indication of severe cyanosis as evidenced by dark mucosal membranes with dark clotted blood on slicing.
  • The tongue appeared swollen.
  • Both tusks were removed by KWS personnel for custody and accounting.
  • The carcasses being relatively fresh had not developed rigor

On opening this carcass, the following picture was noted;

  • There was diffuse petechial haemorrhages that was evident all the way to the internal and external surfaces of gastrointestinal mucosa. Almost all internal organs had petechiations on their parietal surfaces
  • Except for petechiations and some degree of froth in lungs, the pleural organs, including the heart were in good condition
  • The liver appeared congested grossly otherwise with normal consistency
  • Spleen appeared normal in shape and size
  • Both kidneys appeared normal. Cortical and medullary consistency were normal
  • The entire gastrointestinal tract including large and small intestines were severely bloated, with a lot of distension by gas. This elephant had fed on fresh pasture with some wild fruits all found in the gastrointestinal tract. Much of the mucus lining the gastrointestinal tract had also been dissolved with petechiae evident
  • It died while the gastrointestinal functions were sound as the entire system had ingested materials on transit meaning active peristalsis. The rectum had faecal boli ready for excretion

Samples collected from this carcass include-

  • Impression smears for microscopy
  • Liver, kidney  tissue samples for histopathology and toxicology
  • Stomach and intestinal contents with their linings for toxicology and histopathology.
  • Grass samples from the area for analysis as the locals reported presence of a grass species known to cause occasional deaths in their livestock when lush.

Elephant 2

This was the smaller bull 4-5 years on estimation. He died under similar circumstances as the bigger male with all described findings noted on opening. He was in good body condition, but more bloated than his counterpart.

  • He was in good body condition with a body score of 4

Opening of the carcass revealed the following additional findings;

  • More severe bloating was noted with evident mucosal cyanosis and extreme swelling of the tongue
  • He had lung aspirations which included water with dirt assumed to have occurred at the point of death as the trunk was partially submerged in water upon discovery
  • There was evidence of rupture of abdominal aorta. This could have happened at the point of death or soon thereafter because bleeding was localised to the point of rupture meaning lack of active pumping.

Samples collected from the carcass include;

  • Liver, kidney tissues for histopathology and toxicology
  • Impression smears for microscopy
  • Gastrointestinal contents and mucosa for toxicology and histopathology


These elephants died mysteriously under similar circumstances. Drinking of water exacerbated the situation either dissolving the pre-ingested harmful substance for quick systemic availability or worsened a simple bloat by increasing intraabdominal pressure impacting negatively on lung expansion with resultant dyspnea, hypoxia.

The collected samples were submitted to the Government Chemist for analysis.


Date: 21st April 2017

Species: Masai Giraffe

Age: Adult

Sex: Female

Location: Ruma National Park


There were reports of giraffes displaying signs of chronic emaciation over the last two weeks within the park. Three days prior to this intervention, one sub adult was reported to have died and there was urgent need to investigate and identify possible cause of this problem.

Several herds of giraffes were observed in an attempt to identify one with similar signs for sampling and treatment but all appeared to be in good condition. One adult female was seen in a herd of about 30 giraffes with slight loss in condition and the team agreed she be treated and sampled.

Immobilization, examination and treatment

Immobilization was achieved by use of a combination of 12mgs Etorphine hydrochloride and 50mgs Azaperone delivered in a 3ml dan-inject dart from a vehicle. It took seven minutes for the drugs to take full effect with the giraffe going down on right lateral recumbence. The sedative was immediately reversed with 150mgs Naltrexone and the giraffe restrained manually for examination.

All the parameters were within range except slight anaemia was noted. Given that there has been an upsurge of tsetse population in this park from the latest investigation and documentation, Trypanosomosis was not ruled out and featured as a differential. This is especially considering the long drought experienced over the country for the last few months which could have caused stress and increased susceptibility influencing resistance. Thick and thin blood smears were prepared for microscopy and whole blood collected for DNA.

Diminazene acetuate was given intramuscularly for trypanosomosis along with Oxytetracycline as anti-biotic as well as Anti-ricketsial. Additionally she received an injection of a tonic and blood boosting drug.

Reversal and Prognosis

The anaesthetic was reversed before examination and treatment and the giraffe remained restrained manually to avoid anaesthetic complications. Her prognosis is favourable.


Date: 21st April 2017

Species: African lion

Age: Sub adult

Sex: Male

Location: Mara north Conservancy


This lion in a coalition of three males was limping slightly on his front left leg. He was also a candidate earmarked for collaring by KWS and other partners for monitoring purposes.

This lion was lying under a tree a few meters from the other males. He had recently fed and was in good condition.

Immobilization, examination and treatment

Restraint was achieved chemically by use of 4.8mgs Medetomidine and 200mgs Ketamine in a 3ml dan-inject dart. The vet approached the lion with a vehicle for darting. It took twelve minutes for him to be fully anaesthetized upon which a blindfold was put in place and Cloxacillin ointment applied to both eyes.

Examination revealed a small wound to one of his left paws, which could have been caused whilst hunting, otherwise he was in perfect condition. This wound was cleaned and topical oxytetracycline spray applied. Additionally, he received parenteral injection of Penicillin and Streptomycin combination antibiotic. When treatment was complete, a Satellite and GSM collar was deployed for monitoring.

Reversal and Prognosis

Reversal of the anaesthetic was achieved by intramuscular administration of 20mgs Atepamezole hydrochloride one hour after immobilization. He will make a full recovery as he is a very healthy male.


The Mara Mobile Veterinary Unit would like to extend their gratitude to all stakeholders who helped report cases that required intervention. Thanks to Minara foundation through DSWT for their continuous facilitation. Thanks to KWS management for their technical advice.