Early period of the month was characterized by dry, windy conditions .However, this changed to give way to torrential rains towards mid of the month. Mobility was a challenge especially in areas close to the swamps due to floods. There was a rise in the cases of lions handled during the period with drastic fall in the elephant cases encountered. Following are veterinary activities within the conservation area during the month:
Case#1 Collaring of elephants:
This was done in conjunction with Save the Elephants (STE) programme and involved fixing new collars on a female and a male and replacement of a failing collar on female christened Ivy. The male was collared in Oldonyorinka renown for poaching while the female was collared in Naboisho conservancy. Ivy’s collar was replaced in Motorogi conservancy. The AWT/ SAT Collars fitted will assist in monitoring and inform managers on decisions in advance. Helicopter darting was used with each of the female candidates receiving 16mgs of etorphine hydrochloride. The male was given 20mgs etorphine through Daninject system. Reversal of the two females was achieved by giving 48mgs diprenorphine each while the male got 60mgs diprenorphine delivered through ear vein. The process went on smoothly with animals kept recumbent for as little time as possible and antibiotics given for prophylaxis. Collaring was done on diverse dates between 2nd March 2014 and 24th March 2014.
Case#2 Postmortem of a Black Rhino:
Date: 5th Feb. 2014
Species: Black Rhino
Age: Young adult
Location: Masai mara national reserve (near Governors camp)
GPS coordinates: 36M 0764897, UTM 9823484
The Mara mobile veterinary unit was notified of this carcass by KWS Senior warden, Narok station on the morning of 5th Feb 2014.A post mortem was needed in order to ascertain the cause of death. The team responded immediately and upon arrival found a team of county council Personnel, officers from Kenya police, joined by KWS investigation officers and rangers. The carcass was on the scene.
The carcass was found lying on the left lateral position still fresh with both the anterior and posterior horns chopped off with precision of experience. There was no evidence of struggle before death at the scène. The rhino appeared to have been in perfect condition before death.
On closer examination, the following was noted:
• The rhino appeared to have been in perfect condition before death with body score of 4 in a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 is poor and 5 is perfect. • The carcass was fresh with an estimated age of one day. • Both upper and lower lips were chopped off. • The tail was also chopped off midway. • The entire external genitalia appeared to have been ripped off forcefully by scavengers. • Both ears had been chopped off. • Ventral right thorax had an open wound whose margins were created by slicing with sharp object but extended deeply by scavengers. • Recto-anal tissues were ripped off by scavengers. • Dorsal lumbar region had a big wound suggestively created with sharp edged object and extended deeply by scavengers. • Right side of the neck also had a wound which appeared to have been created by scavengers with junk of tissue retrieved. • There was a small penetrating wound which appeared to be an entry point of a projectile on the lateral surface of the right shoulder. • Another slightly bigger wound was also seen posterior to the left shoulder. The course of the projectile was traced by opening up the carcass. This revealed: From entry point which was on the right shoulder, the projectile took an oblique angle (crannio-caudally) avoiding the scapula but accessing the thoracic cavity through shattering the fourth and fifth rib. It went through pleura, getting the upper portion of the heart penetrating through the right atrium and exiting trough left atrium. This caused a lot of bleeding evidenced by massive haematoma seen. Further trace revealed that the projectile shattered the seventh rib before exiting just behind the left shoulder. Apart from the damage to the ribs and heart no other organ within the thoracic region was involved. The rest of the body organs were intact and showed no unexpected post mortem changes. The exit point of this projectile corresponded to the slightly bigger wound on the left side of the shoulder.
Post mortem diagnosis:
This rhino died from a single bullet shot from right side of its body exiting through the left damaging vital organs specifically the heart. This bullet was able to get the heart puncturing the atria. This damage coupled with severe bleeding compromised heart functions leading to the death of this rhino.
The above post mortem findings highly suggest human involvement in the death of this rhino. Poaching being the main motive. The projectile exited and could not be retrieved.
Case#3: De-snaring of a lion:
Date: 5th March2014
Location: Mara North Conservancy
This lion was spotted the same day in the morning in company of other pride members with a snare around its neck. The snare was not tight but was long with this young lion dragging it around as it moved. Conservancy management sought our services to remove this snare.
Immobilization, examination and treatment:
Immobilization was achieved by remote delivery of combination of 250mgs Ketamine and 4mgs medetomidine through a 3ml Daninject dart. Drugs took full effect after ten minutes, lion assuming sterna recumbency. Eyes were covered with a towel and antibiotic eye ointment with cloxacillin as active ingredient applied to both eyes to prevent corneal dessication. The lion was in perfect body condition and no damage had been occasioned by the snare as it was loose. The snare was removed and lion was prophylactically given 3000mgs amoxicillin intramuscularly. Additional 5mgs of ivermectin was given subcutaneously to act against internal and external parasites.
This was achieved by administration of 15mgs atipamizole intramuscularly one hour after immobilization. The lion got up after ten minutes and walked away without complications.
Case#4 Male zebra with an arrow: Date: 6th March2014
Location: Mushara Gate near Governor's Camp Airstrip.
This young male zebra was spotted by county government patrol team, grazing with other members at Mushara gate near Governor’s camp airstrip. They immediately notified the mobile veterinary team on the ground which responded immediately. The zebra appeared to be restless with obvious pain as it was hardly placing the affected limb. The arrow was still attached and hanging from the right shoulder.
Immobilization and examination:
A combination of 4mgs etorphine and 50mgs xylazine in a 2ml Daninject dart was used to immobilize this zebra. The drugs took effect after four minutes with the zebra lying on his left side. Examination revealed an arrow hanging from the right side of his shoulder firmly attached to the prescapular lymphnode.The wound created by the arrow had become infected with pussy discharge.
The arrow was gently removed as it had hooks, wound copiously lavaged with clean water and hydrogen peroxide used for debridement. All necrotic tissues were removed, iodine and oxytetracycline spray applied in addition to packing the resultant wound with green clay. An intramuscular injection of 3000mgs amoxicillin antibiotic was given to clear infection. In addition 5mgs ivermectin was administered subcutaneously against internal and external parasites.
This was achieved by administration of a combination of 12mgs diprenorphine and 5mgs atipamizole in one syringe through jugular vein. Prognosis: Good Case#5 Treatment of a lioness:
Location: Hamerkop Area, Masai Mara
Narok county Government patrol team found this lioness with other pride members and their cubs trying to kill an eland. However she was trampled and injured by the eland. We were called upon to examine and treat this lioness who was nursing two cubs of about four months old.
The lioness appeared to be in good body condition and co nursing three cubs with a fellow female from the pride. She appeared to be in pain evidenced by her reluctance to move and inability to place the injured limb.
This was achieved by administration of a combination of 260mgs Ketamine and 4mgs medetomidine through a 3ml Daninject dart by vehicle. The drugs took effect after eight minutes and the lioness was blindfolded while the rest of the pride members scared away by use of vehicle. Opticlox eye ointment was applied to both eyes to prevent dessication.
Examination and treatment:
Closer examination revealed simple fracture on the distal part of her right radius with substantial swelling around this area. Manipulations exhibited crackling sounds suggestive of a fracture. However all other tissues were intact and fracture line had not been displaced to warrant reduction. The ulna appeared intact and would act like a splint to limit movement of fractureline.This in essence would immobilize the fracture by acting like internal fixture.
The swollen area was gently massaged and antibiotic (3000mgs amoxicillin) given intramuscularly for prophylaxis.Butasal which is a phosphorus containing catabolic was given to boost callus formation.
This was achieved by intramuscular administration of 12mgs atipamizole one hour after immobilization. Lioness woke up after ten minutes and limped off to where other pride members were.
Case #6 Status of White Rhinos at Olchoro-Oirua Conservancy:
Date:15 th March 2014
Species: White Rhino
Sex: 1 mature female and one young male
Location: Olchoro-Oirua Conservancy
Two white rhinos, a mature female and a young male were reported to have escaped from their bomas on the night of 14th March 2014 from the above mentioned conservancy. A concerted effort by all personnel concerned successfully returned both rhinos to their boma the same night, both in good condition. These are the only white rhinos remaining in the conservancy. We, the veterinary and research team on the ground were requested to assist identify possible reasons for this escape and forward our recommendations to the relevant authorities for interrogation. We did go to the said conservancy for this mission on the morning of 15th March, 2014 and noted the following on the part of the rhinos: • Both rhinos were grazing within 500metres from their bomas having been released from the bomas that morning. • Both rhinos appeared to be in good health and were calm as they grazed. • Security people on the ground were trailing these rhinos as they grazed around and duly guided us as we went about checking on these rhinos.
On checking the status of the bomas, the following observations were made:
• The bomas are paddocked and each can form a separate entity to hold the rhinos with the closure of the entrance. • The paddock used at the time of escape was damp with pool of water forming on the lower grounds. • The enclosure is made of wood and the reinforcements have become weak with time as rhinos lean on them. • The escape point of these rhinos was at the entry to the boma (paddock) where the pole was weak and hanging having detached from the concrete reinforcement on the ground. • Rhinos appeared to prefer higher grounds, closer to the fence as opposed to areas with collection of water forming pools. • Based on the above observation, the preference of these rhinos to stay close to the fence, coupled with constant pushing and shoving could have resulted in the fence giving in and rhinos moving out. The perimeter fence was already weak and easy for active rhinos to break. Constant drizzles could have also excited the rhinos within the boma and their activity resulted into the escape.
1. The entire enclosure needs repair and reinforcement. 2. An electric perimeter fence is highly recommended to deter other animals like elephants from damaging the wooden enclosure. This will also help restrain the rhinos in future if they happen to escape as a result of breakage of their enclosure. 3. Immediate measure should involve moving these rhinos to a more comfortable and secure paddock free from dampness and pools of water. 4. Information gathered from the ground indicates that the female rhino has not conceived since last calving down more than two years ago. The young male companion seems uninterested in mounting or is inexperienced to serve despite the female coming to heat on several occasions. As a long term plan and based on security analysis, a mature experienced male should be availed for this female rhino to breed and achieve social calmness.
Case#7 Lioness near Governor’s camp: Date: 16th March 2014
Location: Governors Camp
This lioness who is a member of the famous mash pride was spotted by Governor’s camp management with an abnormally swollen abdomen. She was also unwilling to move around with other pride members. They brought this to our attention.
This lioness was apparently in good body condition. However a swelling on ventral aspect of her abdomen appeared to disturb her in her movement as she kept lying on one spot while the rest moved around.
Immobilization and examination:
A combination of 4mgs medetomidine and 260mgs Ketamine was prepared and delivered through a 3ml Daninject dart by vehicle. It took eight minutes for the drugs to take effect. The lioness was blindfolded with opticlox eye ointment being applied to both eyes. On close examination, a big swelling which was warm and irreducible was observed ventrally slightly posterior to the umbilicus. Aspiration with 21 gauge needle revealed that this was a ripe abscess.
The abscess was lanced ventrally and drained. The wound was copiously lavaged with water, followed by 10 volume hydrogen peroxide to remove dead tissues. Lugol’s iodine was then applied before oxytetracycline wound spray being applied. In addition, this lioness was given 3000mgs amoxicillin antibiotic intramuscularly.
Achieved by administration of 12mgs atipamizole intramuscularly one hour after immobilization. Prognosis: Good.
Case#8 Wounds on a lioness near Governor’s camp: Date: 16th March2014.
Location: Governors Camp
We came across this female while handling the abscessed female. She appeared to have been injured while hunting with her colleaques.They had killed a topi.
Achieved by administration of a combination of 260mgs Ketamine and 4mgs medetomidine through 3ml Daninject dart. Drugs took effect after ten minutes and the lioness was blindfolded after both eyes applied with opticlox eye ointment.
Examination and treatment:
Examination revealed multiple wounds which were caused by goring by the topi.All the wounds were fresh. The left eye was also damaged during the confrontation. All wounds were cleaned with clean water and hydrogen peroxide used to debride.Lugol’s iodine was then put on the wounds before oxytetracycline spray being applied. In addition 3000mgs Amoxicllin antibiotic was given intramuscularly.
Achieved by administration of 12mgs atipamizole intramuscularly one hour after immobilization. The lion woke up ten minutes after reversal and joined the rest of the pride. Prognosis: Good.
Case #9: Postmortem of an elephant
Date: 18th March2014
The KWS security patrol team came across this elephant in a thicket and requested the mobile veterinary unit to carry out postmortem in order to ascertain the cause of death.
General examination of the carcass:
The carcass was found lying on his right side in a shallow valley close to the edge of a thicket. The picture at the scene showed that this elephant struggled for a moment before death. The carcass was still fresh and the elephant appeared to have been in perfect condition before death. There was a sharp edged wound on his right flank which was oozing serosanguineous fluid contaminated with ingesta.Simmilar but shallow sharp edged wounds were evident on his forehead. Both tusks were recovered by KWS security team and taken for safe custody. Age of the carcass was less than 24hours.
Post mortem examination:
On closer examination, the following were noted; • The carcass was beginning to bloat. • Three sharp object inflicted wounds were seen on his forehead with diameter of approximately one inch each. The wounds were however shallow. • A deep wound about three inches in diameter was seen on his right flank. The penetrating wound possibly caused by spearing was deep enough to access the large intestines with resultant seepage of fecal material to the peritoneum. • All other organs appeared grossly normal.
This elephant died of acute peritonitis as a result of peritonial contamination by faecal matter. The wounds appeared to have been inflicted by a sharp object consistent with spearing. From the picture, there is high possibility human activities were involved in injury and eventual death of this elephant.
Case#10 Treatment of a elephant:
Date: 20th March2014
Location: Mara North Conservancy
The Mara North Conservancy patrol team came across this elephant during their normal patrols around Main Kicheche camp in Mara North Conservancy. The female elephant appeared to be limping on her left front leg. They informed the veterinary team on the ground who responded immediately.
The elephant was in a herd of fourteen elephants among them young calves. They were comfortably feeding on acacia trees along a flowing stream. She appeared to be limping on her left front limp with few movements she made before being darted.
Immobilization, examination and treatment:
Immobilization was achieved by use of 15mgs etorphine delivered through a 2ml Daninject dart using a vehicle. The dart took full effect after seven minutes with the elephant going down on her left side. Examination on the right side of her body revealed an abscess on her right rump. The abscess was lanced cleaned with copious amount of water, hydrogen peroxide and iodine applied. Oxytetracycline antibiotic spray was then applied topically. The elephant had to be turned over with the help of ropes and vehicle to reveal injuries on her left side including the targeted left forelimb. This side revealed other abscesses around the flank and sternal area which were handled the same way as the earlier abscess. Lateral surface of the left elbow had a raw wound which appeared to have been there for a few days. This was a shallow wound which appeared like it had been caused by bunt edged object, probably a tree stump. The wound was probed for any foreign matter which was not there, and cleaned with a lot of water. Hydrogen peroxide was used to remove necrotic tissues before iodine being applied. Finally, green clay was packed into the wound. In addition 15000mgs Amoxicillin antibiotic was administered into different sites intramuscularly.
This was achieved by administration of48mgs diprenorphine hydrochloride intravenously via the ear vein.
Case#11 Treating wounds on a lion:
Date:20th March 2014
Location: Bilashaka Area
We came across this lion at Bilashaka area while coming back from treating an elephant. He was lying under a tree in a lot of pain. He resisted attempts to agitate him to move but when he finally rose up he could not place his right hind limb. He could hardly stand up and alternated between sitting down and lying.
Immobilization and examination:
A 260mgs Ketamine and 5mgs medetomidine 3mlDaninject dart was prepared and delivered by use of Daninject darting riffle in a vehicle. It took eight minutes for this massive male lion to get fully anaesthethized.Blindfold was applied after both eyes receiving opticlox ointment to prevent dessication. On examination, this lion had suffered multiple bite wounds occasioned by fighting with rival pride. The bite wounds were fresh. The bite on the gastrocnemius muscle of the right limb was severe but the muscle was not torn.
All wounds were cleaned with hydrogen peroxide, dried with swabs before lugol’s iodine being applied. Opticlox (Cloxacillin) antibiotic ointment was infused on each of the fight wounds with oxytetracycline antibiotic spray being applied topically. In addition300mgs of amoxicillin antibiotic injection was given intramuscularly.20mgs of Dexamethasone sodium anti-inflammatory was also given intramuscularly to alleviate pain and reduce swellings. To rid ecto and endo -parasites, 6mgs of ivermectin was given subcutaneously.
Achieved by administration of 18mgs atipamizole intramuscularly one hour after immobilization. The lion woke up after ten minutes and limped towards the tree it was lying under.
The Mara mobile veterinary unit would like to thank all players and supporters of conservation who contributed enormously to various interventions and rescues in the conservation area during the period under review. Many thanks to David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) and KWS for their partnership and continued support to the unit. Their input has seen tangible achievements in conservation and reduction of unnecessary wildlife suffering for the good of all touched by conservation.
Report by: Dr.Campaign Limo