Whistling for the Jaguar

The un-redacted story of the jaguar, Macho B's snaring and death.

Archive for the category “Medical Findings”

Last Tissue Analysis

I received the last analysis on Macho B’s tissues; this one done by a USGS lab. The two page document has approximately two words that aren’t medically related. I’ve spent many hours looking up definitions for everything but have decided on simplicity and will just give the diagnosis:

Moderate nephrosis and mild to multifocally moderate glomerulonephritis. Translation: Moderate kidney disease and mild to multifocally moderate renal disease.

Focally severe necrotizing duodenitis. Translation: Focally severe dead cells of inflamed duodenum (short part of small intestine that connects to stomach). The cause for the duodenitis could not be determined.

It is important to remember that none of the diagnostic labs were asked to determine if snaring Macho B caused his death or had any effect on his health or if the drug used to anesthetize him, Telazol, could have been a factor in his health or death. All labs were given tissue samples of his organs to simply analyze and diagnose .

Dr. Dean Rice, one of the attending vets at the Phoenix Zoo, has gone on record that “sedation probably aggravated his kidneys.” (see weblog for link to article referenced) In addition, during an interview with the USFWS agents in charge of the Macho B investigation, it was noted “Stress factor of capture is significant medical factor in addition to renal failure.”

Macho B was 16 years old (80 in human years) when he was captured. He was in the snare for an unknown amount of time and put up a good fight (pics to come in future post). He also broke a canine down to the root and was hypothermic. He was drugged with Telazol (more about this drug in future) and it took him six hours to recover (there is no reversal agent for Telazol). That was six hours for his kidneys to work overtime to metabolize the drug. I just don’t see how an argument can be made that snaring and collaring Macho B had no effect on his health or death.


Additional Post Mortem Findings

The Phoenix Zoo necropsy report listed the following additional findings: significant hemorrhagic congestion within right lung, pinpoint spots of hemorrhage on surface of heart overlying area of coronary vessels, multiple small lacerations/abrasions on limbs and trunk, small amount of serosanguinous ascites (accumulation of blood and serum in abdomen), areas of mild hemorrhage/ulceration in body of stomach, enlarged liver extending into caudal (hind part) abdomen, tape worms present in lumen (cavity where digested food passes and where nutrients are absorbed) of small intestine, and the adrenals appeared mildly large and cystic.

The University of Arizona’s additional findings were as follows: The acute myocardial (muscle tissue of heart) necrosis (scarring caused by infection) suggests either ischemia/hypovolemia (Insufficient supply of blood to an organ/State of decreased blood volume in blood plasma characterized by salt depletion) or possibly injury secondary to chronic catecholamine (Play an important role in body’s physiological response to stress. Their release increases the rate and force of muscular contractions of heart) effects on the myocardium (Middle and thickest layer of heart wall). The duodenal erosion ( lining of upper portion of small intestine into stomach erodes and develops a sore) is probably related to stress.

The additional findings of the University of California report were: He had lesions compatible with mild bacteremia (bacteria in blood); endocarditis (Inflammation of heart) and tubulointerstitial nephritis (Inflammation that affects the tubules of kidneys and the tissues that surround them. The most common cause in humans is an allergic reaction to a drug. The disease can also be caused by a bacterial infection in the kidneys) that may have originated from the enteric lesions (lesions in small intestine).

Macho B was sixteen years old when he was euthanized. He was one of the oldest jaguars to be documented in the wild.

I used the following resources for understanding of medical terminology: medscape.com, reference.com, wikipedia, free dictionary, purchon.com


Macho B was diagnosed with kidney failure.  When he was taken to the Phoenix Zoo the in-house blood work identified kidney values as “off the scale.”  His BUN (blood urea nitrogen) level was >180mg/dl.  Normal levels would have been between 15-35mg/dl.  According to Wikipedia, the BUN is a measure of the amount of nitrogen in the blood in the form of urea, and a measurement of renal function.  The next indicator of kidney failure was Macho B’s creatinine levels. According to Wikipedia, creatinine is a breakdown product of creatine phosphate in muscle.  It is chiefly filtered out of the blood by the kidneys. If the filtering of the kidney is deficient, creatinine blood levels rise. Macho B’s creatinine level was 15.2mg/dl. A normal reading would have been between 1.3-2.5mg/dl. The Phoenix Zoo vets concluded that the only treatment options were: intravenous fluids or diuresis; either a kidney transplant (none available), or routine kidney dialysis (not feasible).  During the necropsy Macho B’s kidneys were described as “very pale and firm.”

Tissue samples of Macho B’s kidneys were sent to three different labs; The University of Arizona Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, University of California Wild Carnivore Pathology Laboratory, and a USGS lab.  The UofA diagnostic lab disagreed with the Phoenix Zoo’s diagnosis of kidney failure, “the histologic sections of the kidney do not indicate significant renal disease.” (See weblog for link to article about UofA findings) But, the UofCA lab concurred with the Zoo and added another reason for Macho B’s decline in health, “This jaguar had two significant disease processes that may have contributed to his clinical signs, chronic renal disease and subacute enteritis.” I had to go to answers.com for the definition of the last disease: enteritis-inflammation of the intestinal tract, especially the small intestine. The UofCA report continued: The jaguar had significant chronic changes in the kidneys typical of those commonly occuring in aged felids.  The cause of these changes is not well established, but chronic progressive hypoxic damage is most likely.

I am awaiting the USGS report and will publish their findings once I receive them.

Blood taken from Macho B at his initial capture could not be analyzed at his re-capture to determine if kidney disease was a pre-existing condition for him.  The blood drawn from Macho B during his initial capture was done by AZGFD technician Smith.  According to him a small amount of blood was collected because “…the blood was hard to get-had trouble with that. I had a real hard time-that was the problem with that because that’s the first time I ever got to draw blood out of a cat…I didn’t get a good sample.” In addition, Smith and his co-worker, Crabb, didn’t store the two vials that contained 1.5ml of Macho B’s blood properly. When the blood was requested for analysis on the day of the re-capture to determine Macho B’s health at the initial capture the lab determined the blood sample was not suitable because it had been stored improperly (frozen) and the sample was too small.

Canine Tooth

The AZGFD technicians, Thorry Smith and Michelle Crabb, whom collared Macho B noticed bleeding from his mouth and that his top, left canine was broken when they initially assessed his condition. They could not determine if the tooth broke during the capture because of all the cuts in Macho B’s mouth from fighting the snare.  The tooth looked stained and worn and they determined it did not break while he was snared.  They also searched the capture area and could not find the broken tooth.

In Macho B’s necropsy report it states: Upper left canine completely fractured into multiple pieces down to the gum line with the root canal exposed, appears to be several days old at least based on appearance and lack of fresh blood but not more than several weeks old based on lack of significant infection or presence of foreign material around fractured pieces.

In preparation for the “possibility” of capturing a jaguar during the course of the federally funded, AZGFD lion and bear snaring project (in which Macho B was captured), AZGFD technician, Smith, had obtained a copy of The Jaguar Health Program Manual written by Drs. Sharon Deem and William Karesh.  In the manual it states: Treatment of broken teeth:  It is imperative that a fractured tooth (most commonly a canine is broken during jaguar captures and immobilizations) be repaired to minimize pain and infection associated with the tooth.  A calcium hydroxide product (i.e., Dycal) can be used to cap the tooth pulp.

I have no idea why it seems acceptable for a jaguar, or any other animal, to sacrifice a canine tooth (used to grab and kill prey) in exchange for a collar to be wrapped around it’s neck.  Smith was also told of the possibility of a canine breaking if a jaguar was snared by his co-worker on the project, Emil McCain.  I was present when McCain told Smith to make sure he had a tooth repair kit.

When the investigation began into Macho B’s snaring and death the USFWS Special Agents in charge of the investigation returned to the capture site and located a tooth fragment.  The fragment was analyzed and determined to be the broken canine of Macho B.  It was also noted that all four of Macho B’s canine teeth, “exhibited longitudinal streaks of a silver metallic substance.”  My guess would be that the metallic substance was from the metal cable (the snare) that was wrapped around Macho B’s front, left paw for an unknown amount of time.

Macho B would have required dental surgery to repair the tooth and been given a steady dose of antibiotics to ward off infection if he was able to be released back into the wild.  His tooth was one of the deciding factors for euthanizing him and listed as a reason for his declining health.

Below is a picture taken of Macho B’s broken canine during his necropsy at the Phoenix Zoo.

Subcutaneous Emphysema

The severe emphysema noticed in Macho B’s left, hind leg was cultured at his necropsy. The following aerobic organisms were found: Escherichia coli (found in gut; produces vitamin K2 and prevents the establishment of pathogenic bacteria within the intestine), Enterococcus species (normal flora of intestinal tract), and Acinetobacter calcoaceticus-baumannii (bacteria found in soil, can lead to an infection in a body after severe trauma).

This subcutaneous emphysema was dissecting through muscle bellies of the hind limbs.  It was also noted that Macho B had moderate muscle atrophy in both hind limbs.  The cause for the severe emphysema was never determined.  It appears it was NOT an infection as his white blood cell count was normal.

The taxidermist, Marc Plunkett, contracted by AZGFD to skin Macho B and preserve his hide noticed this serious hind leg wound that was “oozing” pus type substances.  He noted the wound did not smell bad, and seemed to be an internal wound rather than a puncture wound.  He also noted a wound he thought was from a dart entry on the same leg. Mr. Plunkett spoke with Tony Davis of the AZ Daily Star about the wound and that article can be found in the blogroll.  Below is a picture of the wound taken by Mr. Plunkett.  Thanks to wikipedia for having posts on medical terms which I used here.

subcutaneous emphysema


On March 2, 2009 Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) coordinated the re-capture of Macho B as satellite transmissions from his collar proved he had not moved much since his initial capture twelve days prior.  Field crew could not locate Macho B so at 11:51am a Wildlife Services houndsman and two hounds were dropped off by helicopter near Macho B’s last transmitted location.  The hounds located Macho B quickly and treed him 100 yds. uphill.  An AZGFD contract vet, Ole Alcumbrac, present for the re-capture noted Macho B was “almost dragging its hind quarters as it climbed a rock ledge.”  The hounds were then held back as the helicopter came in and a tranquilizer dart was shot from the whirly bird into Macho B’s left, hind leg.  The drugs used were ketamine and medetomidine.  Mr. Alcumbrac administered fluids intravenously to Macho B, intubated him, and kept him sedated with gas anesthesia while he was transported to the Phoenix Zoo for further treatment and examination.

Macho B was taken into a treatment room at the Phoenix Zoo at 3:45pm.  He had already received two liters of fluid and was hooked up for more while the vets assessed his health.  Immediately a blood in-house analysis was done and the blood values identified kidney failure.  Macho B also had a broken canine tooth that exposed the root canal and severe emphysema in his hind, left limb (Thorry Smith, the AZGFD field technician that initially collared Macho B and was present for the re-capture described Macho B’s left, hind leg as “dark in color, almost black” and feeling like “bubble wrap”).  For these reasons AZGFD decided to euthanize Macho B with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) consent.  At 5:13 pm Macho B was given 12ml of Euthasol IV and pronounced dead at 5:15 pm.

A cosmetic necropsy was performed on Macho B at the request of AZGFD and with the consent of USFWS.  The gross diagnosis was: suspect kidney failure and broken canine leading to overall decline.

Under the blogroll is a link to the photos taken of Macho B at his initial capture and then re-capture.

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