The Mara Vet Unit's wild encounters

On Sunday 29 November 2009, the vet unit in Masai Mara received an emergency call pertaining an Elephant cow with serious injuries on her belly and in need of urgent veterinary attention

On Sunday 29 November 2009, the vet unit in Masai Mara received an emergency call pertaining an Elephant cow with serious injuries on her belly and in need of urgent veterinary attention. We left our camp early in the morning headed to the Mara triangle where the cow was and fortunately we located her with the help of the Mara Conservancy staff. This particular cow had a wound that was suspected to have been inflicted with a sharp object from near the hipbone and cutting superficially through the skin and exiting near on the belly. The wound had caused the distension of the belly due to accumulation of body fluids in the lower abdomen but our prognosis was very encouraging because there were no internal injuries. With the wound cleaned and disinfected and various antibiotics administered, we all felt that the Elephant would recover quickly and nurse her young calf to maturity!

On the same day at noon, immediately we finished attending to the first Elephant a second distress call came in from further west in Transmara of a second Elephant bull who was also seriously injured and could hardly walk. His body condition looked bad and walked with a lot of difficulty and was resting deep in the thickets which made darting on foot very difficult and risky. And with no alternative left, the vet accompanied by four armed rangers went into the thicket to dart him. From a distance of less than three meters, the bull was darted and to the surprise of everyone, he was unable to turn and check who was behind him only making a faint squeak. Within a few minutes he went down with the anesthesia. His front left leg had a big wound, was stiff and looked somehow partially paralyzed. He also had another wound on his back. The Vet and everyone else felt that the chances of this particular bull making a full recovery was next to nil and the painful decision of being euthanized had to be taken. At that moment our hearts sank on witnessing the sad and uncalled for demise of a bull who had just attained his prime age and who would have lived for probably even some fifty more years. Another beautiful creature’s life had been cut short by the greed and heartlessness of man.

Monday 21st of December was another usual day for the Vet Unit. Our diary is never planned. The previous day, we had met the Warden in charge of the Masai Mara and he had informed us of some Lion cubs who had a skin condition suspected to be Mange disease near the Mara Govnors Camp. We had agreed to follow up the cases the following day. So we set out on the journey early in the morning and at around nine o’clock we found the pride resting under some Croton macrostachyus bushes sheltered from the early morning sun.

There were Four Lionesses, a Lion and the cubs in the pride. Three of the cubs aged approximately three months looked scruffy and clearly had a problem with their skin. They needed our attention. But how would we capture the cubs without attracting the wrath of all these Lionesses who kept a sharp eye over their beautiful cubs? An option would have been to dart all of them and capture the cubs as they slept but that would be risking too many lives especially these tiny and defenseless souls. We therefore decided to try and herd the three cubs aside from the mothers and try to physically capture and treat them. We managed to push them twenty meters away with all the Lionesses keeping an eye on us and trying to understand what we wanted to do with their cubs. Once a safe distance away we jumped out of the car and started chasing after the cubs. They all hid in the long grass next to Mara River and fortunately we captured one by one administering all the necessary drugs and letting them go where their Mothers were all waiting. Our biggest surprise was that they never tried to attack us from the close distance and it was amazing and unbelievable to think that they could tell by their instincts that we were saving the lives of their cubs. In the late afternoon we came back and physically captured the fourth cub that was older at five months but weak and emaciated. He was in the company of his two other brothers who ran a few meters away and watched us keenly as we attended to their sick brother. 

Again our deep respect for our wild kin was anchored onto our hearts and we believe human beings do not fully appreciate and respect the intelligence that animals hold. All these cases are a wake up call for each and every one of us to take some time to think about all the wild creatures that so often suffer with barely anyone thinking of them.

Thank you all.

Merry Xmas and a happy new year to you all.

Micheni Felix- Mara Vet Unit.