Mara Mobile Veterinary Unit - December 2010

Summary The Central Rift veterinary unit managed to attend to all the reported wildlife cases within the Mara ecosystem during the month of December, 2010


The Central Rift veterinary unit managed to attend to all the reported wildlife cases within the Mara ecosystem during the month of December, 2010. Some of the reported veterinary cases which were attended to include treatment of two elephants in Mara Triangle and an injured female white rhino in Lake Nakuru NP. Other cases included a postmortem examination of a hippo found dead in Musiara stream, a cheetah cub with a dislocated carpal joint and a giraffe with a dislocated hock joint. Detailed reports on these cases are highlighted in the report below. KWS appreciates the support of David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) and other partners towards the provision of wildlife veterinary services in Maasai Mara and other parts of Central Rift region.

Removal of a snare and treatment of sub-adult male elephant in Mara Triangle

This was a case of an elephant that was sighted on the bank of Mara river with a tight wire snare encircling the left hind leg, this had caused an extensive wound around the leg which was already infected and full of maggots, pus and dead tissue debris. The elephant was in deep pain and could only move by limping, it had lost much of its body condition. It had stayed with the snare on for quite a long time and the wound was almost causing septiceamia.

Chemical immobilization and treatment

The elephant was captured by darting on foot using 14mgs of etorphine Hcl and 1500 i.u of hyaluronidase, it was darted on the left thigh and took about 7 minutes for the drug to take effect then it went down on lateral recumbency. The wire was quickly retrieved using a pair of pliers and later cut off using a wire cutter.

The severe wound that had been caused by the snare was then cleaned and debrided using a lot of clean water followed by 10% hydrogen peroxide, then treated by topical application of tincture of iodine and oxytetracycline spray. Further treatments by parenteral administration of long-acting amoxycillin (Betamox®) and dexamethasone (Colvasone®) antinflammatories were instituted.

Revival from anaesthesia

The elephant was then revived from anaesthesia using 36mgs of diprenorphine hydrochloride administered through the superficial ear-veins. It had difficulties trying to rise up after revival but eventually it managed to rise up by its own. It was still very weak and reluctant to move due to intense pain from the wound.


The elephant had favorable chances of healing after removal of the snare and treatment of the wound but it will require repeat treatments at an interval of two weeks to enhance quick healing and to avoid developing septiceamia which can easily lead to death.

Treatment of a wounded sub-adult male elephant near Oloololo gate, Mara Triangle

This was a sub-adult male elephant that was found grazing alone at the edge of Mara river near Kichwa Tembo camp within Mara Triangle. It had been seen limping for about two days when it was reported for veterinary attention. The elephant had started loosing its body condition owing to pain and inadequate feeding due to restricted movement within the reserve.

Chemical immobilization and restrain

The elephant was traced into the thicket along Mara river and darted from a vehicle using 12mgs of etorphine Hcl combined with 1000 i.u of hyaluronidase on the left hind thigh, the drug took effect after about 5 minutes and the elephant went down on lateral recumbency.

Examination and treatment

The wound was examined and probed using a long tissue forceps and swabs, it was a circular wound on the medial side of the left hind leg, the wound penetrated through the tarsal joint from the medial side and exited on the lateral side of the leg. The entire leg was greatly swollen and it was suspected to have been attacked by a sharp poisoned arrow. It was suspected that the joint had developed arthritis and might be difficult to heal.

The wound was then probed using long tissue forceps and swabs, cleaned with a lot of clean water removing all the pus and dead tissue debris. Lots of pus/exudates and necrotic tissue debris were squeezed out and further debrided using 10% hydrogen peroxide and finally treated with a tincture of iodine and oxytetracycline spray. The elephant was further treated using long-acting Betamox® antibiotic, multivitamins and dexamethasone administered intramuscularly.

Revival of anaesthesia

After treatment, it was revived from anaesthesia using 48mgs of diprenorphine hydrochloride administered through the superficial ear-vein; it rose up after 2 minutes and went into the thicket after successful treatment.


The elephant could have a good prognosis if it had not developed arthritis but in case it had developed arthritis then the prognosis will be very poor due to low response to treatment of the joint. It was to be monitored closely by the Mara Triangle rangers who would report on its progress until it is fully recovered or incase it requires a repeat treatment, then the Mara veterinary team will attend to it.

Treatment of a female white rhino with fight injuries in Lake Nakuru NP

The management of Lake Nakuru National park and rhino surveillance team reported to the veterinary department that one of the adult female white rhinos in the park had sustained a serious injury after it was fought by another rhino probably during mating. It had a deep wound on the left thoracic region which was still fresh with haemorrhage that required immediate veterinary attention; the rhino had a young male calf and was visibly in pain. The veterinary team from Mara managed to attend to the sick rhino on time in order to save its life.

Chemical immobilization and capture

After searching for sometime using two vehicles, the injured rhino was located at the “Mouth of Makalia” area while grazing with its calf in a densely vegetated area. It was then led to an open area along the lake shore from where it was darted from a vehicle using a Dan-inject dart gun, the drugs used were 5mgs of etorphine hydrochloride combined with 80mgs of xylazine hydrochloride. It took about 8 minutes for the drug to take effect then it was manually roped down on lateral recumbency. Immediately after it was down, 10mgs of Narlophine hydrochloride was administered through the superficial ear vein to help improve the respiratory rate which was recorded at 10 cycles per minute while the body temperature was 38.0 oC. While it was being treated, the animal was continuously dowsed with a lot of water to help control its body temperature; the respiratory rate was also being monitored and recorded after very 5 minutes until the end of treatment.

Examination and treatment

The animal had a deep wound on the left rib cage but fortunately the wound did not penetrate into the thoracic cavity and therefore there was low risk of internal organ infection, the wound was still bleeding and forming blood clots by the time of capture.

The wound was cleaned with a lot of clean water and gauze swabs, all the small arteries and veins that were still bleeding were crushed using haemostat forceps and others ligated using chromic cat-gut suture until the haemorrhage stopped. The wound was then flushed with 10% hydrogen peroxide and then treated using a tincture of iodine then sprayed with oxytetracycline spray. The rhino was also treated with long acting Betamox® (antibiotic) injection, multivitamins and dexamethasone administered intramuscularly. 

Revival from anaesthesia

After treatment, the rhino was revived from anaesthesia using 24mgs of Diprenorphine hydrochloride combined with 10mgs of Atipamezole hydrochloride administered through the ear vein; 100mgs of Naltrexone was administered intramuscularly to ensure full recovery from narcosis. It rose up after about 3 minutes and took off to join its calf which was still nearby.


The rhino had a good prognosis because it was reported and treated in good time; the wound did not penetrate into the thoracic cavity hence no internal organ infection had taken place, haemorrhage was also stopped before causing anaemia.              


Postmortem examination of a hippopotamus near Musiara gate

An adult male hippo was found lying dead in a small stream next Musiara gate in Maasai Mara NR. It had started decomposing and it had deep penetrating wounds on the abdomen and shoulder regions which it sustained during a fight by other males in the territory. It was suspected to have died of internal organ injuries particularly injuries to the lungs and heart. We advised the Mara management to pull the carcass out of water and burry it elsewhere to avoid contaminating the stream water.

Examination of cheetah cub with a dislocation of the left carpal joint in Mara

A young cheetah cub of about 8 months old was found limping while in accompany of its mother near Roan Hill in Maasai Mara. The cub had a slight dislocation of the carpal joint on the front left leg. It was still very strong and appeared healthy though it was holding up the injured leg most of the times as it ran. On that day they had killed a Thompson gazelle which they ate to full satisfaction. On observation from a close distance, the dislocation was most likely to resolve by itself without being manipulated or treated, so we decided to leave it untouched but continue to monitor its progress until it is fully recovered.

An adult male giraffe with a dislocation of left hock-joint in Sekenani area, Maasai Mara

The giraffe was sighted in an open plain between Mara Sarova and Sekenani gate; it had a deformity at the hock joint of the left hind leg. This was an injury to the joint which had stayed for quite a long time and eventually healed in distorted manner that has made the giraffe to keep on limping up to date. We decided not to capture it for any intervention because it would have difficulties in rising up after revival and that could have worsened its condition. Recent reports from the monitoring team indicate that the giraffe is doing well and the injury has greatly improved after two weeks. We still keep an eye on it just in case it requires veterinary intervention it will be attended to.

Report by: Dr. Domnic Mijele