The month was characterized by minimal precipitation and arrival of more tourists corresponding to the annual migration of wildebeests. Spearing of elephants is still rampant with three cases treated for spear wounds and another one for arrow wound with retrieval of arrow head. Two massive bull elephants succumbed to deep injuries from spearing. Case of poisoning also featured during the month with five vulture carcasses collected and sampled. It is hardly three months since similar poisonings occurred and samples revealed carbamates as the type of poison used. Following are cases handled during the month:
Case#1 Bull elephant at Siana conservancy:
Date: 1st July 2014
Location: Bush Tops - Siana Conservancy, Masai Mara ecosystem
Siana Conservancy scouts had seen a sickly looking elephant bull that had been stationery in one location for 3 days in a thick forested area of Siana Conservancy. They requested the Masai Mara Mobile Vet Unit for intervention.
Etorphine Hcl (0.98%) (M99®) (Novartis South Africa (Pty) Ltd) 18mg, in a 3 ml Dan - inject dart was prepared. Foot darting was carried out. Using a Dan inject dart rifle (Dan-inject APS, Seller up Skovvej, Denmark) the elephant was darted; the dart bounced off, A second dart containing 16mg of etorphine Hcl was attempted and he was immobilized after 10minutes from the second dart.
On close examination the bull elephant was in poor to fair body condition, looked elderly and scrawny. A body condition score of 2-3. He had no significant physical injuries and on flipping him to further examine we noticed nothing unusual. He had a small infected wound on the flank region. The wound was cleaned with copious amounts of water to remove mud and dirt, liberally cleaned with Tincture of iodine. The small purulent wound was also cleaned with dilute hydrogen peroxide and again liberally cleaned with Tincture of iodine. Oxytetracycline spray (Norbrook Laboratories Ireland) was also applied. The elephant was injected with the Oxytetracycline 20000mg (Alamycin® LA 20%, Norbrook Laboratories Ireland) by intramuscular route.
Animal care during anaesthesia:
Animal was doused with plenty of water and the eye covered with the pinna of the ear.
Reversal of anaesthesia:
Using 60mg of diprenorphine Hcl (Novartis South Africa (Pty) Limited) given IV at the ear vein the animal was reversed from anesthesia, (a ¼ of the dose was given i.m). Recovery from anesthesia was smooth and he ambulated well.
Case#2 Reprogramming of collars in wildebeests:
Date: 1st July to 7th July 2014
Location: Masai Mara Ecosystem
History and examination:
These migrating wildebeests were collared two years ago in Tanzania for research purposes. This research was facilitated by Glasgow University. The wildebeests that were collared were traced to Masai mara while on their annual migration. Transmission by the collars was due to expire by end of July and this prompted immediate reprogramming to avoid losing data. This exercise was done in conjunction with the headquarter capture team and saw five wildebeest collars reprogrammed. Appropriate dose of etorphine and azaperone was used based on the size of the wildebeest. The exercise took one week from 1st July to 7th July and was successful.
Case # 3 De-snaring of male zebra:
Date: 4th July 2014
Species: Plains Zebra
Location: Kitcha Tembo Airstrip Mara Triangle - Masai Mara Ecosystem
A common plains zebra had a strangulating wire snare which had cut deep into the neck muscles. He had been searched for more than 3 days and fortunately found on this day at 4.30 pm by Ms Ann K. Taylor and scouts team of Olonana Conservancy.
Animal was darted with a Dan inject® rifle (Dan-inject APS, Seller up Skovvej, Denmark) using 2ml Dan inject dart. Etorphine Hcl 7mg (0.98%) (M99®)(Novartis South Africa (Pty) Ltd and Medetomidine 20mg (Kyron Laboratories (Pty) Ltd)South Africa, combination was used to induce and maintain anesthesia. Anesthesia was reversed using Diprenorphine Hcl 21mg (1.2%) (M5050®) Novartis South Africa (Pty) Ltd) and Atipamizole 7.5mg (Antisedan®0.5% inj. Orion Pharma (Pfizer) Expoo, Finland)), given by intravenous route and a ¼ of the dose by intramuscular route.
Animal care during anaesthesia:
To lower elevated body temperature, the zebra was doused liberally with cold water. The animal was also blind folded to minimize external stimulation.
A zebra with wire snare was promptly desnared. The wound caused by wire snare around the neck was cleaned with copious amounts of water, to remove dirt. The wound was again liberally cleaned with Tincture of iodine. Oxytetracycline spray (Norbrook Laboratories Ireland) was also applied.
Case #4 Suspected case of poisoning in vultures:
Date: 7th July 2014
Location: Olare Orok Conservancy
GPS: S 01.382540 E 035.216030
Narok county government security team called to report this incident. They requested our services to try and determine the cause of death for these vultures. Five vultures had died within a radius of fifty meters from each other. Within their proximity was an old dismembered carcass suspected to have been of a Tomy gazelle. The carcasses appeared to have been between 72 to 96 hours old.
General examination of the carcass revealed the following:
-Maggots had begun infesting on the carcass. -The vulture appeared to have been in good condition and feeding immediately before death. -Bloody (meleanic) faecal material was observed sticking on to the cloaca. -The crop was engorged. -Rigor mortis had already dissolved. -On opening the carcass, the following observations were noted. -The entire (both upper and lower system) gastrointestinal mucosa was eroded. -The crop was engorged with recently ingested flesh including ruminal tissues suspected to be from a small ruminant. -The ingested food appeared to have been laced with pinkish stuff. -The entire upper gastrointestinal tract had similar pinkish stuff but severely eroded. -Intestinal contents were meleanic.
These vultures died under same circumstances as the hyenas and vultures that died three months ago near the same area.The results released by the analyst confirmed the pink substance was a carbamate.This too looks like a carbamate poisoning.
Case#5 De-snaring of an eland:
Date: 9th July2014
Location: Kitcha Tembo Airstrip
This female expectant eland was spotted by the Care for the wild scouts. They duly informed the mobile veterinary team on the ground who responded immediately. The eland was in good health and in a herd with the shiny plain wire dangling from her neck.
Immobilization and removal of the snare:
Immobilization was achieved by use of 12mgs etorphine and 50mgs azaperone in a 1.5ml Daninject dart. The eland took off with two other elands before getting tranquilised after ten minutes. She was brought down with the help of ropes before the snare being removed. She was given an injection of 80mg ivermectin subcutaneously to reduce tick and internal parasite load. The procedure was done quickly to minimize complications as she was heavily pregnant.
Achieved by administration of 36mgs diprenorphine hydrochloride through the jugular vein. She rose up and took off after two minutes.
Prognosis: Good. There was no tissue injury.
Case#6 Post mortem of bull elephant:
Date: 9th July 2014
Age: 40-45 Years
Location: Mpata Club Trans-Mara
GPS Co-Ordinates: 36M 0728603 UTM 9869163
While busy de-snaring the eland, a call was made by Mara elephant project team that they had spotted an elephant with a spear sticking on her left flank. We quickly finished with the eland that was already darted and rushed to the scene, but within twenty minutes of reporting they said the elephant had died. General examination:
-The elephant appeared to have been in perfect body condition before death with a body score of 4.5 in a scale of 1 to 5 where 5 is perfect and 1 poor. -Both tusks were intact with the KWS security team retrieving them for safe custody. -The carcass was still fresh without rigor mortis. -Spear was sticking from his left flank. -No evidence of struggle before death at scene. -Post mortem examination. -Post mortem picture revealed the following, -The penetrating wound caused by the spear was 1.5 meters deep. -Rubber bands which formed the handle of the spear were trapped on the wound. -Faecal material was seeping through the wound. -The spear had damaged the stomach, small and large intestines including the liver. The faecal material had contaminated the peritoneal cavity. -The injury appeared fresh and could have been less than twenty four hours old.
This elephant died due to septic shock as a result of severe peritonitis. Contamination of peritoneal cavity by faecal material lead to septic shock. Retrieval of spear confirms contribution of human activity to the death of this elephant and poaching being most likely the main motive.
Case#7 Treatment of sub adult male elephant:
Date: 12th July 2014
Location: Naiboshi Conservancy
This case was reported to us by Naboisho conservancy management. He was spotted in a herd lagging behind and limping.
This elephant was a distant from the other members of the family, distressed and had difficulty walking. He appeared to avoid putting weight on his right limb. The limb was swollen at the carpal joint with no discharge evident.
Immobilization and close examination:
Immobilization was achieved by administration of 10mgs etorphine hydrochloride delivered remotely through a 1.5ml Daninject dart using a vehicle. The drugs took effect after seven minutes with the elephant assuming right lateral recumbency. Close examination of the limb revealed an arrow head lodged on the medial aspect of his right carpal joint. The arrowhead could have been in place for the past three days. The arrow went deep and partly damaged the joint capsule. The wound was beginning to be infected.
The arrowhead retrieved by gently pulling it back while extending the entry point slightly because the arrow had hooks. The resultant wound was flushed with clean water and irrigated with lugols iodine. Green clay was then applied. In addition 12000mgs of amoxicillin and 80mgs of Dexamethasone was given intramuscularly.
This was achieved by administration of 36mgs diprenorphine intravenously through the ear vein. This elephant woke up after two minutes and walked to join other herd members.
Prognosis: Favourable.Healing may involve arthrodesces of the joint.
Case#8 Elephant bull at Naboisho Conservancy:
Date: 14th July 2014
Location: Naiboshi Conservancy
This bull was spotted by conservancy management in company of ten other males forming a bull herd. He had a wound slightly off his dorsal midline on the left side of withers .This wound was septic with evidence of purulent discharge.However,he did not appear weakened at the time as he kept pace with the rest of the herd though he kept on throwing soil onto the wound and this distracted him from feeding.
Immobilization and examination:
Immobilization involved darting him with 17mgs of etorphine hydrochloride delivered via Daninject darting system using a vehicle. It took ten minutes for this elephant to get fully immobilized falling down on his right lateral.
Examination revealed a wound caused by spearing about four inches deep and two inches wide. This wound was septic and could have been there for five to eight days before intervention.
All the pus was drained and the wound lavaged with copious amount of water. It was then debrided with hydrogen peroxide with help of gauze swabs. Lugol’s iodine was used for irrigation before oxytetracycline spray being applied topically. Green clay was then packed to absorb toxins and quicken healing. In addition 15000mgs amoxicillin antibiotic and 2500mgs Flunixin meglumine anti-inflammatory were given intramuscularly.
Achieved by intravenous administration of 48mgs diprenorphine hydrochloride through ear vein. The elephant woke up within two minutes and joined the rest of the herd.
Case#9 Wounded Bull elephant:
Date: 15th July 2014
Location: Naiboisho Conservancy
One day after attending to a bull with injuries at this conservancy, another one was spotted with a discharging wound on his right rump. This bull of about 35years old was in a herd of twelve elephants.
This elephant was in a herd and though he kept up the pace with others, appeared to be in reasonable pain. There was a purulent discharge from his right rump.
Immobilization, examination and treatment:
Immobilization was achieved by administration of 17mgs etorphine hydrochloride delivered through Daninject dart by vehicle. It took eight minutes for the drugs to take full effect with the elephant assuming right lateral recumbency. The right pinna was used as blind fold for the right eye and copious amount of water poured on the elephant to cool as it was a hot day. Examination revealed a septic spear wound on the right rump which was four inches deep and two inches wide forming a pocket of pus.Probing of the wound revealed no foreign body. Management of the wound involved complete draining of the pus, debridement with hydrogen peroxide and gauze swabs and disinfecting it with lugol’s iodine. Green clay was then packed onto the wound. In addition 15000mgs of amoxicillin antibiotic and 2500mgs Flunixin meglumine anti-inflammatory was given intramuscularly.
This was achieved by giving 48mgs diprenorphine hydrochloride through the ear vein. The elephant woke up in two minutes and walked away.
Case#10 Treatment of an elephant bull:
Date: 18th July2014
Location: Olkinyei Conservancy
This elephant was spotted in the company of 22 other bulls forming a bull herd. He had purulent discharge on his right flank. The conservancy management called to seek intervention and we immediately responded.
This elephant in company of other bulls was in good body condition but appeared to be having a discharging wound on his right flank.
Immobilization, examination and treatment:
Immobilization was achieved by administration of 17mgs etorphine hydrochloride in a 3ml dart through Daninject darting system by vehicle. The elephant took 15minutes to be fully immobile and fell down on his left side. This gave us good opportunity to examine the right flank which revealed a healing spear wound with slight discharge of pus.Further probing of the wound did not reveal any foreign body. The wound was washed with copious amount of water, debrided with hydrogen peroxide and gauze swabs. Tincture of iodine was then applied before finally spraying it topically with oxytetracycline. Further treatments included intramuscular administration of 15000mgs Amoxycillin antibiotic and 100mgs Dexamethasone sodium anti-inflammatory.
Achieved by administration of 48mgs diprenorphine hydrochloride intravenously through the ear vein. The bull woke up and joined the rest of the herd.
Case#11 Post mortem of an elephant bull: Date of post mortem: 18th July 2014
Location: Naboisho/ Nkoilale border
GPS: 36M0761350 UTM9840188
This case was reported by KWS security team on patrol after being notified by Naboisho management. Our services were sought to determine the cause of death.
General carcass examination:
On general examination of carcass and scene, the following findings were noted: -The carcass appeared to have been in good body condition before death with a body score of 3.5 in a scale of 1to 5 where 5 is perfect and 1 poor. -There was no evidence of struggle at the scene of death. -The left tusk was missing and had been crudely removed by suspected poachers. -The right tusk was in place and was retrieved by KWS security officers for accounting and safe custody. -There was a wound on his left flank which appeared to have been caused by spearing. Ingesta were seeping through the wound opening suggesting the depth was beyond the peritoneum accessing the gastrointestinal system. -No other wound was observed externally. -Maggots had begun infesting and the carcass was beginning to putrefy. Age of the carcass could have been 5 to 7 days old. -Scavengers had ripped off part of perineum and ventral abdomen. -On opening the carcass, the depth of the wound was confirmed. The spear went past the peritoneal space and damaged the small and large intestines. All other organs were grossly normal and showed no unexpected post mortem changes.
This elephant died of septic shock because of severe peritonitis. The peritoneum was contaminated by ingesta and faecal matter as a result of damage to the stomach and bowels by spearing. The missing tusk and cause of death highly suggest human involvement in the death of this elephant, poaching being the main motive. This massive elephant was a victim of recent spate of spearing targeting large bulls within this conservation area.
Case#12 Unstable Zebra:
Date: 24th July 2014
Age: 9years old
Location: Masai Mara Ecosystem
This female zebra about 9years old was spotted struggling to stand on the roadside by tourists. They then informed the reserve management who in turn informed us.
This zebra appeared to have been in good body condition prior to this problem. She was by the roadside struggling to rise but unable, rolling over and over on water that had collected on the side of the road. The front limbs were strong but could not support her with the rear ones. The perineal area appeared engorged. An attempt to assist her stand was futile as she appeared to have partial posterior paralysis. She had begun developing bruises possibly as a result of continuous struggle to stand.
Further examination and management:
Further examination which included rectal palpation confirmed the following: -This zebra was carrying a four month old foal and the cervix was intact. -The urinary bladder was heavily distended and manipulation led to scanty urine being passed out. -The rectum was full of fecal stuff that could not be voluntary voided. Rectal reflexes were absent and the fecal material could only be manually removed. -This therefore was a case of posterior paralysis with damage to the nerves supplying posterior parts of the body. This resulted to urine retention, rectal paralysis and hind limb Inco-ordination and dysfunction.
The prognosis for this case was poor and to save her from further suffering, decision to euthanize her was reached at.Euthenasia was achieved at by administering 200mgs xylazine hydrochloride intramuscularly to make her relax before giving her 4000mgs of 20% pentobarbital sodium (Eutha-naze)intravenously through the jugular vein. The zebra died soon after administration of this drug and was carried to hidden place away from the road for post mortem. Post mortem picture confirmed the pregnancy status which was at four months and was a male. The entire colon was packed with fecal material and bladder fully engorged. There was a sharp lateral kink on the spinal cord at posterior lumbar region and this could have been accidental leading to disc prolapsed at this point. This could have impinched on nerves emanating from this point and those posterior to it hence the paralysis noted.
This zebra could have dislocated her spine due to sudden turn while dashing away from a predator scare or even push by a moving vehicle. The second possibility is more appropriate as this zebra was found by the roadside.
The Mara mobile veterinary unit would like to thank every stakeholder who helped in one way or another, report cases that required intervention. The support received from Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DWST) has been enormous and has really helped save a lot of suffering wildlife. Due to their facilitation many innocent animals have been saved from distress and even death in good time.
Report by: Dr Campaign Limo