Mara Mobile Veterinary Unit - July 2013

The month was characterized by drop in precipitation and influx of wildebeests that corresponds to their annual migration from Serengeti to Maasai Mara

The month was characterized by drop in precipitation and influx of wildebeests that corresponds to their annual migration from Serengeti to Maasai Mara. Most cases handled during the month mainly involved elephants. Majority of these wounds having been human inflicted injuries. The trend shows shift of poaching techniques whereby spears and arrows are employed as opposed to use of firearms as witnessed shortly before.

The following are cases we were able to handle over the period;

Case#1: Injured male elephant at Mara bush stops, Siana conservancy

Date: 7th July 2013

Case history

This elephant was spotted by the Mara bush Tops management displaying difficulties in mobility, restless and foul putrid odour emanating from him when one drives in close proximity. This was an indication that it had a prolonged septic injury. The Mara Bush Tops personnel immediately sought our assistance to save this elephant.

Immobilisation and examination

A decision to immobilize and further examine the elephant was arrived at. A 16mgs Etorphine dart was prepared to be propelled through Daninject system. Because of the nature of the terrain and this being complicated by the thickets, foot darting was recommended.

It took ten minutes for the drug to take effect and the elephant assumed sternal recumbency near a water pool. Closer examination revealed that the elephant was about 45 years old and had lost considerable body condition. There were gaping wounds on its trunk and left side of the neck. The wound on the neck was particularly deep about 8 inches deep and 2 inches wide suspected to have been inflicted by a spear. All the wounds were septic and already infested by maggots thus the foul smell. Other small but infected wounds were observed on the right rump.


All the wounds were cleaned with copious amount of water and hydrogen peroxide to remove dead tissues, debrided then lugol’s iodine used to irrigate. In addition Oxytetracycline spray was also applied before green clay being used to cover. In addition 15,000mgs amoxicillin antibiotic was administered parenterally.


48mgs of diprenorphine hydrochloride was administered through the ear vein. The elephant made a few attempts to rise up but was unable. A decision to assist it by roping and pulling by use of vehicles was reached. However this did not yield results as the elephant made few struggles to assist itself during the process. An additional help of a four wheel drive tractor was sought but still the elephant appeared too weak to get up. After 6 hours of struggle to bring him up the jumbo gave up, making one final weak kick as it died. Both tusks were removed and handed over to KWS security team which was on the ground for save custody.


This elephant was too compromised to withstand the immobilization and treatment process. It was evident the elephant was suffering from severe septicaemia which had compromised chances of survival. The position of the injuries particularly the one on the neck was pathologically significant because the excessive swelling on the throat hampered its ability to breath and could easily have caused progressive hypopnea.

Case #2-Bull elephant at Naboisho Conservancy

Date: 11th July 2013

Case History

This elephant was seen that morning by the Naboisho security patrol team who immediately notified the management who in turn sought our help. The elephant was seen with a swelling on the left rump oozing thick cheesy pus in company of one other male. At first, the wound was thought to be harbouring an arrow head.

Immobilisation and examination

Immobilisation was achieved by use of 15mgs Etorphine hydrochloride delivered through Daninject system. Drugs took effect in eight minutes and the elephant took right lateral recumbency position.  This eased our examination as the wound was on the left side. On examination, this was a healing abcess already expunging most of the purulent material and beginning to be fibrous. No foreign object detected within the healing wound.


The healing abcess was cleaned with water, hydrogen peroxide and lugol’s iodine applied. In addition 20,000mgs of Oxytetracycline antibiotic injection was given parenterally.


This was achieved by administering 48 mg of diprenorphine HCL intravenously via the ear vein.



Case#3-Post mortem of an adult male elephant.

Date: 15th July 2013

Age: Adult about 40 years

Sex: Male

Location: GPS 36M0757836, UTM 9826952 (Emarti Naboisho conservancy).

Case History

This elephant carcass and its location were reported to us by KWS security staff and requested our services to conduct a postmortem examination to ascertain the cause of its death. According to the history provided, this elephant was an adult male we treated in Naboisho conservancy two months before with several arrow inflicted wounds.

General findings noted were:

•    The carcass was on right lateral recumbency slightly submerged in a flowing stream;

•    The carcass was in average body condition with a score of 2.5 in a scale of 1- 5where 1 is poor and 5 perfect;

•    The carcass was beginning to putrefy with maggots beginning to infest. The age of the carcass was between 2-4 days.

•    The carcass had partly been scavenged on, with tissues on perineal area and part of left front limb ripped off by scavengers.

•    Healing wounds noted on left hind limb and front left limb were consistent with those of the adult male we treated before.

•    The trunk was dismembered from the rest of the carcass by sharp object and thrown a few meters away.

•    Both tusks were missing and were suggestively removed by hacking starting from uppermost nasal turbinates straight downwards chopping out half of the face.

On closer examination, the following post mortem findings were noted,

There were two piercing wounds on the right lateral ribcage, one between the fourth and fifth rib while the other between the seventh and eighth rib with almost same measurements of approximately 2.5 inches wide. Both wounds were deep enough to access the pleural cavity causing collapse of both lungs. The depth of these wounds, were about seven inches for the more cranial one while the posterior one was about nine inches. Froth was oozing from both wounds.


1.    This elephant’s features, the age, sex, body size and healing wounds were consistent with those of one we treated two months before.

2.    The immediate cause of death for this elephant was pneumothorax occasioned by puncture wounds of the thoracic cavity.

3.    The missing tusks and several sharp object inflicted wounds, highly suggest human involvement in the death of this elephant.

Case#4 –Treatment of a female elephant (young adult)

Date: 16th July 2013

Case history 

This elephant was reported to us by management of Olare Orok conservancy, with a history of having developed acute swelling on the ventral side of its abdomen. The swelling was more pronounced on the right side causing difficulty in movement and restlessness.

Immobilisation and examination

This elephant was immobilized by use of 15mgs etorphine hydrochloride delivered through Daninject darting system and she was down on left lateral recumbency in eight minutes.

Examination revealed a diffuse right ventrolateral oedema which extended caudally to the vulva. The oedematous swelling was more pronounced caudally. Other features of this swelling were that it was firm and cold. No traumatic injury was seen anywhere close to the oedematous swelling. All other physiological parameters were within range.

Diagnosis and treatment

Based on the above signs, clinical diagnosis arrived was mechanical obstruction of lymphatic drainage of the right abdomen. The cause of obstruction could not be established but localized lymphadenopathy of corresponding lymphnodes could be the cause. Their swellings could lead to diminish or complete blockage of lymph flow.

Treatment involved administration of 20,000mgs of Oxytetracycline antibiotic injection, 100mgs Dexamethasone sodium anti-inflammatories given parenterally and Flunixin meglumine2500mgs for pain relif. Similar repeat treatment was done on 25th July 2013 with similar immobilization protocol.


This was achieved by administering 48mgs diprenorphine hydrochloride via the ear vein .The elephant in both instances woke up without difficulty.


Fair to good 

A   repeat immobilization for  assessment  of progress and repeat treatment  for this elephant was carried out on 25th July 2013.During this second assessment,the following were noted;

•    The swelling  had spread to both sides of ventral abdomen and  had become loose in consistency as opposed to its firm texture noted first.

•    The right hindleg of the elephant  was more free and mobile than before.During the first intervention the leg was swollen and tight with little movement in terms of forced adduction and abduction.

•    On general assessment, the elephant appeared to be in more less pain than before.It moved fast enough keeping  pace with other members of the family and fed like the rest.

•    Overally, she had improved and similar treatment was also repeated and the conservancy adviced to keep following the progress.Another treatment can be repeated after two weeks depending on the response of the latest treatment.

•    Prognosis remains fair to good.

Case#5 : Treatment of an injured sub-adult female elephant.

Date: 16th July2013


Olare Orok conservancy management reported that its staff had seen this elephant among a herd in the conservancy. The description was that the elephant had an injury on its right abdomen with some organs popping out.

Immobilisation and examination

The elephant was immobilized using 14mgs etorphine delivered by Daninject darting system. The elephant was immobilised in ten minutes.

Examination revealed a penetrating wound measuring about two inches wide and deep enough to access peritonial cavity. Omental tissue was popping through the wound opening though it was still fresh. No other injury was evident.

Wound management

The extereorised part of the omentum was trimmed off and the wound cleaned with clean water and lugol’s iodine. Amoxicillin ointment was infused and green clay used to cover the wound opening. In addition 15,000mgs of amoxicillin antibiotic was administered parenterally to prevent any infection.


48mgs diprenorphine hydrochloride was used to revive this elephant and she stood without difficulty. Sadly however, we lost this elephant three days post treatment and we suspect the spear could have been laced with poison.

Case#6: Clinical examination of vervet monkeys at Sekenani camp

Date: 15th July2013

Sekenani camp reported having seen a number of the vervets in their compound showing some strange skin conditions.

In total, two vervets in the group were seen to be having this problem which appeared to be mange infestation on general appearance. The camp management were advised to keep observing and report if new cases occur. Mange infestation is self-limiting if immunity is sound. They confessed a few initial cases had since subsided. 

Case#7: Post mortem of elephant carcass

Date; 25th July2013

Location: 1.34924 N, 35.20029 E ( 1’26”56.9039 N, 35’ 12” 1.0464 E)

Sex: Male

Age: Approximately 10years


This case was reported by Olare Orok Conservancy. The elephant had not been seen with any problem before, but found by patrol team accidentally having died close to a stream of water partly submerged.

General examination;

On examination,the following were noted;

•    Carcass was already putrified with maggots already infesting. Estimated age of the carcass was ten days.

•    The elephant died while on sternal recumbency.

•    No evidence of struggle before death on the scene of the carcass.

•    No visible injuries seen externally.

•    Both tusks were intact.


1.    Detailed post mortem could not be possible owing to the state of the carcass. Most parts had been scavenged on by predators and putrefaction had led to dissolution of most of the tissues.

2.    Having seen no physical injuries and the tusks were intact. This elephant could have possibly died of undetermined natural causes. The tusks were recovered and handed over to KWS security staff for safe custody.

Case#8: Injured Male elephant at Naboisho Conservancy

Date: 27th July 2013

Case history: The veterinary unit received a message from Naboisho Conservancy that there was a limping bull elephant with a visible wound on the right forelimb. On receiving the report, the mobile vet unit responded.

Immobilisation and examination: This elephant was immobilized by use of 16 mgs etorphine hydrochloride delivered through Daninject darting system. The elephant went down on sterna recumbency in eight minutes.

For ease of extermination, the elephant was made to lie on its left side by use of ropes. Examination revealed a shallow wound on the lateral side of the right fore-limb which was beginning to necrotize with hanging flesh. The wound was about 8 inches in diameter but not beyond the sub-cutis in depth. All other physiological parameters were within range.

Wound management:

The wound was cleaned with copious amount of water and hydrogen peroxide to remove dead tissues, debrided then lugol’s iodine used to irrigate. The hanging tissue was trimmed off. Oxytetracycline spray was applied on the wound before green clay being used to cover it. In addition 20,000mgs oxytetracycline antibiotic was administered parenterally.


This was achieved by administering 48 mg of diprenorphine HCL intravenously via the ear vein.



Report by Dr. Campaign K. Limo