Feb 9, 2023

Mawazo Writing Africa

Writing about the main

One in seven Kruger rhinos infected with bovine TB germ, scientists find

One in seven rhinos in Kruger National Park is infected with the pathogen that causes bovine tuberculosis, according to new research.

Scientiststested samples from 437 rhinos collected between 2016 and 2020 and found the germ Mycobacterium bovis in 15.4% of them.

However, this does not mean that the animals are sick or dying. Michele Miller, head of Stellenbosch University’s animal TB research group, said their immune systems keep it in check.

“They’re not losing weight and they’re not coughing, and if you look at a group of 400 rhinos , you would not be able to detect infected people. You can potentially live with an infection for years if it’s contained,” Miller said.

The SA National Veterinary Services were also on board with the study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Parks (SANParks) and the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.

San Diego-based lead author Carmel Witte said bovine TB occurs in wildlife systems around the world

“In cattle spread infection to white-tailed deer in Michigan. This, in turn, can lead to a rebound of the infection into livestock and carries the risk of spreading to other wildlife and humans,” Witte said.

Miller said research showed that most rhinos contained the infection otherwise they are healthy. “It can be compared to people who are infected with Covid-19 or who have latent TB but are asymptomatic,” she said.

Witte said the possible population-level health impact of bovine TB is unknown are. “Continued monitoring of rhinos and other animals can help us understand the long-term impact of this infection on wildlife and prevent catastrophic population losses and further spread of the disease,” she said.

Wynand Goosen, from Stellenbosch , added: “To avoid the next pandemic in humans, livestock and wild animals, they must be actively monitored for various infectious agents with zoonotic potential.”

The study identified proximity to buffalo herds and drought as risk factors for infections. A significant cluster of cases has been detected near Mpumalanga farms on Kruger’s south-west border, where herding cattle has historically been linked to the transmission of bovine tuberculosis to the park’s wildlife in Kruger, particularly buffalo.

Kruger’s chief veterinarian, Peter Buss, said bovine tuberculosis was widespread in at least 15 other species in the park and the new research had significant implications for SANParks’ rhino conservation and management strategy .

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