Mara Mobile Veterinary Unit - January 2011

Summary During the month of January, 2011, the Central Rift veterinary unit managed to attend to all the reported wildlife cases within the Mara ecosystem and Naivasha area


During the month of January, 2011, the Central Rift veterinary unit managed to attend to all the reported wildlife cases within the Mara ecosystem and Naivasha area. These included desnaring and treatment of an elephant calf in Sand River, Maasai Mara, horn trimming of a dominant male rhino in Oserian Wildlife Sanctuary to avoid injuring other rhinos, and several other cases of zebras and other species in Naivasha and Mara. KWS is very much grateful for 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. Detailed reports of all the animal cases attended to during January are highlighted in the report below.



The management of Oserian Wildlife Conservancy reported to Kenya Wildlife Service rhino programme office that one of the dominant white rhino bull named “Oserian” had long and sharp horns that it uses to fight other rhinos causing serious/life threatening injuries that has resulted to deaths of some individuals. The fights are more frequent during mating season and the bull mostly fights young males as it struggles to mate with the female. The Oserian management therefore requested for an immediate action to capture the dominant bull and trim the sharp horns in order to reduce incidences of injuries or death of others due to a fight. The veterinary team was then contacted and the exercise was successfully carried out on 7th January, 2011.

Chemical immobilization and capture

The white rhino was spotted while grazing from among two other males and a female. It was positively identified as the dominant bull and darted on the left shoulder from a vehicle using 6 mgs of etorphine Hcl combined with 80 mgs of xylazine Hcl, it took about 5 minutes for the drugs to take effect and the rhino went down on lateral position. Immediately it was down, 10mgs of Nalorphine was administered through the era-veins to help improve the respiratory rate. It was then blindfolded, dowsed with a lot of water to help regulate the body temperature. Other vital parameters such as the respiratory rate, body temperature and heart rate were constantly monitored throughout the operation to ensure that the rhino was under stable anaesthesia.

Horn trimming

The rostral horn was almost 2 feet long and it was cut off to half the size using a power saw, while the caudal horn was also reduced to half the original size using a power saw. Bothe horns were left completely blunt to ensure that they cannot cause any injury to any other rhino within the sanctuary. The horns were handed over to the KWS officers on the ground and the Oserian managers for safe keeping before submission to KWS headquarters in Nairobi

Samples collection

Blood samples were collected both in plain tubes and into EDTA coated tubes, hair samples from the tip of the tail, tick samples, tissue samples from the ears and feacal samples from the rectum were collected for future research on white rhinos.

Revival of anaesthesia

The animal was then revived from anaesthesia using 24mgs of diprenorphine Hcl combined with 10mgs of atipamezole administered intravenously through the ear-vein, followed by 100mgs of Naltrexone and 12mgs of diprenorphine Hcl administered intramuscularly. It rose up after 2 minutes; it was then monitored for about 30 minutes to ensure it fully recovered from narcosis.

Treatment of a common zebra with an extensive injury in Hell’s Gate National Park

This was an adult male zebra sighted with quite extensive necrotic wound on the left shoulder with a piece of skin loosely hanging from the wound. The zebra was in a very painful condition and could not move together with others. A decision was made to treat the animal, and it was captured by darting using 5mgs of etorphine Hcl combined with 80 mgs of xylazine Hcl. The drug took effect and the zebra went down after about 5 minutes.

Examination and treatment

The wound was examined and it was found to be extensive but superficial as it had not penetrated into the thoracic cavity, the loose skin was cut off. The wound was cleaned and debrided using clean water and 10% hydrogen peroxide. It was then followed by topical application of tincture of iodine and oxytetracycline spray. It was further treated with long-acting oxytetracycline administered intramuscularly. 

Revival of anaesthesia and prognosis

The zebra was revived using 12mgs of diprenorphine Hcl combined with 10 mgs of atipamezole Hcl administered intravenously through the jugular vein. The zebra rose up after 2 minutes and joined the rest of the herd. It had good prognosis after treatment as infection had not set in and it was treated in good time.

Treatment of a common zebra with an injured leg and hoof overgrowth in Kedong ranch, Naivasha.

One of the male adult zebras was found limping while lifting up its left hind leg, it was in a large group of other zebras but it was unable to keep pace with them hence lagged behind most of the time. The zebra was captured by darting and the leg examined, it had several vertical cracks (fissures) on the left hind hoof which were constantly bleeding and inflammation had set in. The hoof had excessively overgrown causing the cracks on the hoof and would not allow the zebra to walk properly.


The hoof was trimmed to size using a small hacksaw and the deep fissures treated with hydrogen peroxide and tincture of iodine with oxytetracycline spray. Long-acting antibiotics administered intramuscularly. The zebra was then revived from anaesthesia and released to join others after a successful treatment. It had good prognosis after the treatment because arthritis had not set in.

Rescue of a snared common zebra in Kedong ranch, Naivasha.

This was a case of a male adult zebra that had been sighted with a long loose wire snare around the neck; the wire was quite long and kept dragging on the ground as the animal walked. The vet team decided to capture the zebra to remove the snare; it was then captured by darting using 5mgs of etorphine hydrochloride combined with 60mgs of xylazine hydrochloride on the left thigh muscle.

The wire was then cut off using a wire cutter and the dart wound treated using an Opticlox® ointment. It was then immediately revived from anaesthesia using 12mgs of diprenorphine hydrochloride combined with 5mgs of atipamezole hydrochloride administered through the jugular vein and the animal released back to the wild after successful treatment.

Treatment of a wounded zebra in KARI farm, Naivasha.

This zebra was sighted with a very deep wound just at the left shoulder joint, the joint ligaments were torn and the zebra could not bear weight on the affected leg. The wound was suspected to have been caused by a sharp object which created a deep cut through the muscles. It had a young foal which was still suckling and we had to save its life for the sake of the young one. It was then immobilized by darting; the wound examined and treated using hydrogen peroxide and tincture of iodine. It still had some chances of recovery after treatment though it had difficulties while walking.

Euthanasia of a speared Hippopotamus in Mara river, Maasai Mara

An adult male hippo was sighted with a sharp spear stuck on its back in Mara River just next to Olkejorongai tourist camp. The spear which was sharp on both sides had pierced through the hippo’s abdomen and thoracic cavities causing serious injuries to the vital organs of thoracic cavity and abdomen. The hippo was unable to move for some days and it preferred to remain in one place for several hours everyday, it could not even get out of water for grazing at night and it was already weak and lost much of its body condition. There was serious pain elicited by the spear whenever the hippo attempted to walk. The hippo had become so weak and had very little chances of survival. It was not practical to dart it while in water because of the risks of drowning after being immobilized.

The veterinary team decided to euthanize the hippo in order to alleviate pain and suffering, it was euthanized by stunning the head through a gun shot and it died instantly. The carcass was later dragged out of water using ropes to avoid water pollution.

Removal of a snare and treatment of an elephant calf in Sand River, Maasai Mara.

An elephant calf was found limping while accompanied by its mother and the rest of the family along Sand River in Maasai Mara. It had a very tight encircling wire snare cutting through the left hind leg. It had caused a very extensive wound round the foot and continued to cut deeper into the muscles as the animal walked. Part of the lower foot pad had been cut off and left a large circular wound which was exposed to constant irritation and contamination from the ground as the animal walked. The calf was in a very painful situation and had begun to loose its body condition. It was a 1.5 year old calf. It had to be treated urgently to avoid developing septiceamia.

Chemical immobilization and treatment

The elephant calf was captured by darting from a vehicle using 7mgs of etorphine Hcl; it went recumbent after about 6 minutes. The rest of the elephant family was scared away by vehicles but the mother refused to leave the calf and it had to be darted too so that we could be able to attend to the calf.

The wire was then cut off using a wire cutter and the wound caused by the snare was cleaned and debrided using water and 10% hydrogen peroxide, then treated by topical application of tincture of iodine and oxytetracycline spray. Other treatments by parenteral administration of long-acting oxytetracycline were instituted. It was then revived from anaesthesia and released back to the wild; it was still weak and reluctant to move due to pain from the wound. 

Revival from anaesthesia and prognosis

The mother and the calf were revived simultaneously using 48mgs and 12 mgs of diprenorphine Hcl respectively administered through the superficial ear-vein. The calf had good chances of healing after removal of the snare and treatment, the only risk was if it developed arthritis or septiceamia.

Report by: Dr. Domnic Mijele