The Mara Mobile Veterinary Unit - January 2009

Introduction During the month of January, 2009, many cases of lion, elephant, giraffes and other wildlife were reported to the veterinary unit for treatment


During the month of January, 2009, many cases of lion, elephant, giraffes and other wildlife were reported to the veterinary unit for treatment. Cases of wildlife snaring are still very common in Naivasha area, this month two zebras, a giraffe and a buffalo were attended to and rescued. An elephant in Oldonyo Uwas that sustained several wounds on most parts of the body during a conflict with area residents trying to scare them away from homesteads was also attended to during the month. Lions in Mara are frequently engaged in territorial fights particularly when two or more prides meet during hunting, such fights results in severe bite wounds that sometimes lead to death or require urgent veterinary attention to save their lives.

Lions also compete with cheetahs in the Mara ecosystem and sometimes cheetah cubs are killed by lions over a prey. During the month of January two cheetah cubs and a mother were killed by a lion pride in Olkiombo plains, their carcasses were eaten by the same pride of lions, hyenas and vultures. Last year 5 cheetah cubs were confirmed to have been killed by lions and leopards while competing for a prey, other cases of cheetah predation which go unnoticed could be many and a strategy to control this trend is required. Masai Mara is home to the majority of cheetah populations in Kenya, currently more than 100 cheetahs are found in the Mara game reserve alone and many more outside the reserve.

A proposal to improve on cheetah monitoring and protection of cubs and pregnant females from predation and human conflicts by putting on radio-collars to females with young cubs and pregnant ones for daily follow up and surveillance could help save more cheetahs in the ecosystem.

Rescue and treatment of a common zebra with an eye injury and a snare round the neck in Annex Sanctuary, Naivasha.

The adult female zebra was sighted with a wire snare round the neck and exophthalmia of the right eye which was also bleeding profusely. The animal was reported by KWS rangers at the Annex sanctuary who also assisted the vet team to capture and treat it.

After a brief observation from a distant, the animal was captured by chemical immobilization through darting using 5mgs of etorphine hydrochloride combined with 60mgs of Xylazine hydrochloride and it took about 6 minutes to become recumbent   

The wire was cut using a wire cutter; it was still loose and had not inflicted any injury to the neck. The injured eye was properly cleaned with gauze swabs and water, pressing to control haemorrhage then treated by topical application of Opticlox eye ointment. Other treatments included an administration of dexamethasone and Betamox long-acting antibiotic through intramuscular route.

The animal was then revived from anaesthesia using 12mgs of Diprenorphine hydrochloride combined with 5mgs of Atipamezole hydrochloride.


The animal had higher chances of healing after the treatment because haemorrhage had been stopped and infection to the eye treated effectively, it still had a good appetite and had not lost the body condition. It was to be monitored on a regular basis to check on the progress incase it requires a second treatment.        

Capture and treatment of a Rothschild giraffe in Kigio Wildlife Conservancy, Naivasha

This was an adult male giraffe that had been sighted with an injury on the medial side of the left hind limb. It had stayed with the injury for sometime and was unable to move and feed freely with others, the wound had started healing and had a lot of granulation tissue when observed closely. In order to avoid further bacterial infection and ensure a quick healing of the wound, veterinary intervention was sought by the conservancy management.

Chemical restrain

The animal was then captured by chemical immobilization through darting using 13mgs of etorphine hydrochloride combined with 30mgs of Xylazine hydrochloride. It took about 5 minutes to become recumbent.

Immediately it became recumbent, the wound was examined and was found to be infected by the amount of pus exudation, granulation tissue had developed which showed a good sign of recovery. It was then cleaned debrided and treated routinely with antibiotics and ant-inflammatories. It had better chances of recovery as the wound was high up on the hock joint region where infection through ground contamination was rare.

Anaesthesia revival

The animal was then quickly revived from anaesthesia using 5mgs of Atipamezole hydrochloride combined with 36mgs of Diprenorphine hydrochloride administered through the jugular vein.  It woke up after 3 minutes.

Treatment of an adult female elephant with severe and debilitating wounds in Oldonyo Uwas

The sub-adult female elephant had several deep penetrating wounds on the abdomen, shoulder, fore head, ear flaps and at the back. The wound were already infected and discharging a lot of pus. It was so painful such that the animal could not move much and preferred staying alone in thick vegetation areas where it could readily get water and feeds.

Chemical immobilization and capture

The elephant was captured by darting using 15mgs of etorphine hydrochloride combined with 1000 i.u hyaluronidase. It was darted using Dan-inject dart-gun propelled from about 20 meters on foot. Unfortunately, the drug did not discharge from the first dart. It was then tracked on foot for over 3 kms before darting it for the second time, after about 6 minutes the drug took effect and the elephant became recumbent.

Physical examination and treatment

The wounds were examined and probed by gauze swabs attached to a long forceps. Most of them were affected full of tissue debris and pus exudation. A lot of pus was expressed out of these wounds. Considering the massive amount of pus that was being expressed out of the penetrating wounds particularly those on the abdominal region, neck and head region, the animal had a very poor prognosis and chances of survival were almost nill.

It had become extremely weak and emaciated losing much of its body condition. Nevertheless, the vet team decided to give it a second chance if it could survive. All the wounds were then cleaned and treated normally using massive doses of antibiotics but after being revived from anaesthesia it was unable to rise up. It was later euthanized humanely to avoid undergoing an extremely painful situation and a prolonged death.

It was likely that the many extensive wounds found on almost every part of the body had been heavily infected with bacterial organisms some of them releasing pus and toxic chemicals to the body led to septiceamia and peritonitis that was so advanced and could not allow the animal to survive. After being euthanized, all the tusks were recovered and kept in the Kenya Wildlife Service store in Amboseli National park.

Treatment of a lion with severe bite wounds on the abdomen and shoulder muscles in Masai Mara.

Lions are very much prone to traumatic injuries while hunting for food, often they sustain fractures, severe wounds and may even die in some instances. Bite wounds are also very frequent in lions during some of the territorial fights particularly when two prides meet during hunting. 

Rangers who were on a patrol mission within Mara came across five adult male lions near Keekorok lodge; they were in good body condition except one which had several wounds on the abdomen, thighs and shoulder. They were suspected to be bite wounds that pierced through the skin into the peritoneum.

Chemical restrain and treatment

The lion was captured using 300mgs of Xylazine Hcl combined with 300mgs of Ketamine Hcl, it was darted on the left thigh and became recumbent after about 8 minutes. It was then blindfolded and transferred to a cool shade under a tree from where it was examined and treated.

Upon examination, the wounds were found to be already infected exuding a lot of pus and foul smelling. The lion had lost most of its body condition, weak and rarely moved, it was only depending on other lions for food. It was quite an old lion and had lost three of its four canine teeth due to old age. Injuries were very extensive such that even the eye lids had lacerative wounds. It seemed to have been attacked by a group of other lions.

The vital physiological parameters were recorded as follows;

Respiration rate 28 cycles/minute, deep and regular, Pulse rate 72 beats/minute, strong and regular, body temperature of 37 degrees Celsius, buccal, conjuctiva and anal mucosal membranes had pink normal colour, capillary refill time (CRT) was 2 seconds. External parasites like ticks and lion flies were detected on the skin.                


The animal was treated with antibiotics (Amoxycillin), multivitamins and dexamethasone. Eyes were well treated with Opticlox eye ointment to prevent desiccation and infection. All the superficial wounds on the skin were sprayed with oxytetracycline spray to help repel the irritating flies and enhance wound healing. An infusion of dextrose solution was also administered through the jugular vein to help supplement glucose and energy.

Samples collection

Blood samples were collected in EDTA coated tubes and plain tubes coated with clot retractor and kept in a cool box, tissue samples kept in ethanol solution and ectoparasites such as ticks and lion flies collected and stored in 70% ethanol. These samples were then processed and stored in KWS lab for further analysis and for future reference.

Anaesthesia Revival

The animal was revived from anaesthesia after more than 1 hour using 15mgs of Atipamezole Hcl administered intramuscularly, it took about 20 minutes to rise up, but it was still unable to move. It had good appetite and was being supported by the other four male lion around. It was to be monitored on a daily basis by security rangers who would report on its progress regularly, incase it requires a repeat treatment; the vet would attend to it again.   

Removal of a snare wire from the neck of a buffalo in Lentolia farm in Naivasha

This was an adult male buffalo of more than 5 years old that was I a herd of over 50 buffaloes in Lentolia farm Naivasha.  The buffalo had a fairly tight copper wire round its neck with a long piece being pulled on the ground.  The wire had not inflicted any injury yet and the farm management sought veterinary attention to save its life.

It was then immobilized through darting using 5mgs of etorphine hydrochloride combined with 30mgs of xylazine hydrochloride. The wire was cut off quickly and the animal revived from anaesthesia immediately to join others nearby, there was the risk of other buffaloes charging at the vet team during treatments so the operation was quick in order to avoid this, also it would be desirable to see the treated individual joining the rest of the herd immediately after treatment for accompany.   

Rescue and treatment of a common zebra entangled by a snare in Aquilla farm in Naivasha

An adult female zebra had a tight wire snare and a plastic plate round the right hind leg in Aquilla farm, the wire was so tight and had caused a severe wound round the limb just distal to the tarsal joint.

The animal was reported by the KWS warden at Naivasha station and they assisted the vet team to look for it until it was rescued. The animal was immobilized by darting using 5mgs of etorphine hydrochloride combined with 60mgs of Xylazine hydrochloride and it took about 6 minutes to become recumbent. After it was fully anaesthetized and went recumbent, the eyes were covered by a blind-fold and water poured onto it to help control the body temperature.

The wire was then cut off using a wire cutter and the wound treated with 10% hydrogen peroxide and tincture of iodine applied on it, an oxytetracycline spray was also applied to help keep off maggots and flies and to enhance the healing process.

The animal was then revived from anaesthesia using 12mgs of Diprenorphine hydrochloride combined with 5mgs of Atipamezole hydrochloride, it took about 3 minutes to rise up and it took off to join others while feeling relieved.

Aquilla farm is a horticultural farm located on the south-western part of Lake Naivasha about 5Kms away from the lake shore. There are quite a number of different wild animal species that stay within the farm including zebras, eland, buffaloes, impalas, Thompson gazelles etc. During dry periods, these animals tend to move away from the farm towards the surrounding village settlements from where they end up being killed or entangled on snares set by people searching for game meat. The current population of zebras within Aquilla farm is about 250 individuals plus many other animals. Security within the farm and outside should be enhanced to help protect this large population of wildlife.       


Most of the cases in January involved treatment and rescue of some of the Kenya’s endangered species like the lions, elephants and Rothschild giraffe in different areas of Central Rift region. Basic laboratory equipment were provided by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust but the unit still requires a solar-powered refrigerator and a laboratory technician based in Mara to help in collecting, processing and storage of biological samples for diseases diagnosis, surveillance and research. This will greatly improve the veterinary services and research activities in the region.

Report by: Dr. Domnic Mijele