In September wildlife in northern Kenya continues to suffer consequences of drought in the region. In Meru national park for instance many species have congregated along the riparian habitats. However mortality and morbidity directly attributable to drought remains low.
In the month under review the veterinary unit participated in a KWS sponsored eight day rhinoceros ear notching program in Meru national park. The aim of this activity was to ear notch 21 rhinos (15 white and 6 black rhinos) to aid in positive identification of rhinos by all observers.
Among clinical cases attended to was an injured juvenile black rhino in Ol Pejeta conservancy and a snared elephant in Meru national park. The veterinary officer in charge of the unit also attended a three day (12th to 15th September) KWS warden and scientists workshop in Nairobi where several issues affecting wildlife in the region were discussed.
CASE #1 Snared Elephant:
Date: 16th September 2014
Location: Rojowero, Meru National Park
This was a subadult female elephant in Meru national park which was spotted on 6th September in a group of 14 elephants by tour guides from Elsas Kopje. This elephant was dragging a two feet long loose plain wire snare around its left hind limb.
On the day we planned to dart we found a day old calf in the group which had just been born and its mother was cleaning up its placenta. This group was agitated by our presence and repeated efforts to drive it out of the dense shrubs failed. We will continue to search and desnare this animal.
CASE #2: Autopy Report, Carcass identity:
Date: 7th September 2014
Age: 5 years old
Location: Meru national park
GPS Coordinates: 37 N 0408739
-This carcass of a subadult elephant was found during routine patrol close to the road on 7th September 2014. It was approximately two days old and had been eviscerated by scavengers.
-Both tusks which were intact were retrieved and taken to the park armoury for custody.
-No other significant findings were recorded due to the status of the carcass. Death in this case was attributed to natural causes.
CASE # 3 Treatment of a juvenile Black Rhino: TREATMENT OF A JUVENILE BLACK RHINO IN OL PEJETA CONSERVANCY
Date: 24th September 2014
Species: Black Rhino
Age: 21 months
Location: Ol Pejeta Conservancy
This juvenile black rhino had been treated one month earlier for lameness attributed to a puncture wound and swelling on its right forelimb. It was reported to have shown little improvement and its body condition was deteriorating. The rhino was immobilized on 24th September to assess its progress and to do a follow up treatment.
Procedure and findings:
-Both mother and calf were immobilized. Darting was done on foot using Etorphine hydrochloride and Xylazine hydrochloride in a single 1.5cc DanInject dart with a 2.0 × 60mm plain needle.
-Butorphanol hydrochloride 5mg was administered intravenously on contact with the immobilized animal to stimulate its cardiopulmonary function.
-Examination showed swollen muscles of the scapula around the right forelimb. On manipulation of the right forelimb crepitus was felt which was attributed to elbow joint subluxation. The puncture in the muscles of the scapula was healed.
Diagnosis and treatment:
Tentative diagnosis: Traumatic elbow joint subluxation
After treatment procedure, the animal was revived from anesthesia using Diprenophine Hcl 12mg and atipamezole 5mg injected through superficial ear veins.
Prognosis and recommendation:
Prognosis for this case remains guarded, however further tests such as radiography are required to confirm our diagnosis.
We recommended confinement of this animal in a boma for monitoring and also to restrict its movement to facilitate healing.
RHINO EAR NOTCHING IN MERU NATIONAL PARK
This report describes ear notching and microchip insertion in rhinoceros in Meru national park from 13th to 21st September 2014. During this period 15 white rhinos and 4 black rhinos of various age and sex were immobilized, fitted with microchips and ear notched. This will improve identification of individual rhinoceros by specific ear-notch pattern and a particular name.
Rhinoceros candidate selection and capture of rhinoceros
Black rhinos (Diceros bicornis) and white rhinos (Cerathotherium simum) selected for ear notching were individuals two to five years old that had not been notched previously (described as clean animals). This selection criterion was used to minimize risk associated with post immobilization separation of calves which are dependent on their mother for nutrition and nurture.
Rhino candidates for ear-notching were identified by an experienced spotter. Candidates were identified on the basis of their territories, individual attributes such as age, size and sex and group attributes for instance number in a group or identity of its companions.
All the rhinos were darted from a helicopter using a Dan-inject rifle, 2ml Dan-inject darts with a 2.2 × 60mm needle. Etorphine Hcl (0.98%) (M99®) and Xylazine hydrochloride (10%) combination was used for anesthesia.
White rhinos anesthesia was reversed using Naltrexone Hcl (5%) and Atipamezole Hcl (0.5%) by intravenous route followed by Diprenorphine (1.2%) (M5050®) given by intramuscular route.
Anesthesia in black rhinoceros was reversed using Diprenorphine Hcl and Atipamezole Hcl (0.5%) given by intravenous route and a ¼ of the dose by intramuscular route (Table 1.).
Table 1: Drug quantities for anesthesia and reversal
Adult Black rhino
Adult White rhino
Sub-Adult Black rhino
Sub-Adult White rhino
Physical examination and monitoring of anesthetized rhinos
Immobilized rhinos were positioned on sternal recumbency and airway patency verified. Vital parameters were monitored including respiration rate and depth, colour of mucous membrane, moisture and rectal body temperature.
In addition rhinos showing signs of respiratory distress were treated with Butorphanol tartrate (1%) 0.5 ml and Doxapram 20mg administered intravenously. To control hyperthermia immobilized animals were doused with cold water. Animals were blind-folded to reduce capture stress.
A predetermined pattern was excised on the ears of each of the immobilized rhinos using surgical scissors and blades. Hemorrhage was controlled using hemostatic forceps and by applying pressure using gauze swabs. Ear notch wounds were liberally sprayed with Oxytetracycline Hcl. Microchips were also inserted into both horns.
All immobilized rhinos were examined physically for injuries, wounds and filarial worms wound lesions and treated appropriately. For control of ectoparasites all immobilized rhinos were treated with an ectoparasiticide pour on.
Number of rhinoceros ear notched in Meru park stratified by age and sex
Biological sample collection
Samples for genetic studies and Rhino DNA Index System (RHODIS) database were opportunistically collected in immobilized rhinos.
Blood obtained from interdigital veins was put in EDTA coated and plain tubes, aliquoted in cryovials and preserved in liquid nitrogen. Ear tissue samples preserved in ethanol and horn scrapings were collected. These samples will be subjected to molecular techniques for DNA extraction and amplification.
Tick samples preserved in ethanol were collected for parasitological studies.
An illustration of ear notches in two individuals in Meru park
NOTCH #: 70
Report by: Bernard Rono