Mara Mobile Veterinary Unit - March 2011

Summary The Central Rift veterinary unit attended to and treated a cheetah with severe mange infestation on the skin in Maasai Mara National Reserve, rescued a zebra foal that got entangled by a wire snare in hell’s Gate National Park


The Central Rift veterinary unit attended to and treated a cheetah with severe mange infestation on the skin in Maasai Mara National Reserve, rescued a zebra foal that got entangled by a wire snare in hell’s Gate National Park. The team also euthanized and did postmortem to an adult male elephant with injuries on the left shoulder joint in Olare Orok Wildlife Conservancy, Maasai Mara.

Incidences of human-wildlife conflict cases and hunting for bush meat are still increasing within Maasai Mara ecosystem and Naivasha areas. This requires intensive security patrols and community education and awareness on wildlife conservation to reverse the trend that results in loss of several wildlife species in these areas.

The KWS veterinary unit in Maasai Mara ensures that all reported cases of wildlife diseases and injuries are attended to and treated in good time to promote wildlife conservation in Mara and Central Rift conservation area. Detailed reports of all the animal cases attended to during the month of March, 2011 are highlighted in the report below.

Treatment of an adult male cheetah (Acynonyx jubatus) of mange infection in Mara North Conservancy near Off-beat Safaris, Maasai Mara.

The cheetah was sighted by Mara North Conservancy rangers on the Northern boundary of Maasai Mara NR; it was highly infected with mange infection on the head, legs, shoulders, abdomen and tail regions. It had quite extensive alopecia, encrustation, and intensive pruritis, restlessness, emaciated and had become weak; it also had dermatitis on the ears and lower extremities of the legs. It required an immediate treatment and samples collected for laboratory tests before the condition worsened or the disease transmitted to other cheetahs.

Mange is a highly contagious skin disease caused by mites (Muller et. al., 1989). Various genera of mites have been documented but the commonly found mites are the Sarcoptes and Notoedric mites. Mites affect domestic animals, humans and wildlife (Pence and Uckermann, 2002). Mange is also classified as a zoonotic disease. The most effective control method in wildlife is through regular treatment to reduce the prevalence of the disease. Cheetahs, lions, Thompson gazelles and wildebeests are the most commonly affected wildlife species in Maasai Mara area.

Chemical restrain

The cheetah was darted from a vehicle using 160mgs of ketamine combined with 1.5mgs of medetomidine hydrochloride on the left thigh; it took about 10 minutes for the drug to take effect. It was then blindfolded using a towel and transferred to a cool shade under a tree from where it was examined and treated. Both the eyes were covered with opticlox® eye ointment to avoid desiccation and conjunctivitis while it was recumbent.

Examination and treatment

The cheetah was in a poor body condition and the vital physiological parameters were monitored and recorded as follows; Respiration rate 18 cycles/minute, deep and regular, pulse rate of 120 beats/minute, strong and regular, body temperature was 38 degrees Celsius, all the mucosal membranes had pink normal colour and capillary refill time (CRT) was 2 seconds. It had some external parasites such as ticks and lion flies on the skin. The cheetah had extensive loss of hair on several parts of the body particularly the head, face, neck, lower abdomen and legs.


Mange was treated using 8mls of 1% Ivermectin administered through the subcutaneous route, skin lesions treated by iodine and oxytetracycline spray. The animal was further treated using antibiotics (Amoxycillin) Betamox®, multivitamins and dexamethasone to minimize further inflammation, pain and pruritis.

Samples collection

Skin scrapping samples were collected and kept in 70% ethanol for further laboratory analysis. Blood samples were collected in EDTA coated tubes and plain tubes coated with clot retractor and kept in a cool box, tissue and hair samples kept in ethanol solution and ectoparasites such as ticks and lion flies collected and stored in 70% ethanol. These samples are to be processed and stored in KWS lab for further analysis and for health monitoring purposes.

Anaesthesia revival

After treatment, the animal was revived from anaesthesia after about 60 minutes using 30mgs of Atipamezole Hcl administered intramuscularly; it took about 10 minutes to rise up. It was to be monitored on a daily basis by security rangers who would report on its progress regularly to the veterinarian just in case it would require further treatment or any assistance to enhance its recovery.

Removal of a snare and treatment of a zebra foal in Hell’s Gate NP.

A zebra foal was sighted with a tight wire snare cutting through the neck muscles near the watering point in Hell’s Gate NP. The wire had cut deep into the muscles causing a very deep and extensive wound on the ventral side of the neck.

The zebra was captured by darting using 3mgs of etorphine combined with 30mgs of xylazine on the left thigh, it became recumbent after about 6 minutes, the wire was quickly removed and the wound cleaned and debrided using 10% hydrogen peroxide, then treated by topical application of tincture of iodine followed by oxytetracycline spray and intramuscular administration of antibiotics.

It was then revived from anaesthesia using 12mgs of diprenorphine hydrochloride combined with 5mgs of atipamezole hydrochloride administered through the jugular vein.


The zebra had good chances of recovery after the removal of the wire and treatment of the wound, the wound was only affecting the soft tissues of the neck and is likely to heal faster after treatment.

Euthanasia and postmortem examination of an elephant in Olare Orok Wildlife Conservancy

This was a case of an adult male elephant that was found lying on the ground and unable to rise up, it kept struggling to come up but could not manage due to injuries sustained on the left front leg. It was suspected that the elephant had been lying down for about 3 days, the leg and shoulder muscles were already fatigued and the animal had developed decubital wounds on the abdomen caused by the prolonged period of lying down and rubbing on the ground. After examination, we realized that no amount of treatment would make it stand up and move, the prognosis for recovery was very poor. The elephant was then euthanized humanely by a single gun-shot on the fore-head and it died instantly without feeling any pain.

Postmortem findings

The elephant had a deep wound on the left shoulder joint that penetrated deep into the joint cutting most of the joint ligaments. As a result of this the joint became weak to an extent that it could not support the weight of the animal, we also suspected paralysis of the brachial nerves of the affected leg. It had lost most of the body condition after staying with the injury for sometime. Bothe tusks were recovered and taken to KWS stores for safe keeping.


KWS acknowledges the great support received from The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust towards provision of wildlife veterinary services in Maasai Mara and other parts of the Central Rift Conservation area.

Report by: Dr. Domnic Mijele