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Wed Jun 01 01:50:43 SAST 2016

TB killing Kruger Park wildlife

Katharine Child | 04 January, 2016 00:05
To fight the disease and determine the extent of its spread, researchers at Stellenbosch University are working to develop tests to detect TB in wildlife. File photo
Image by: DANIEL BORN

Tuberculosis is scything through wildlife in the Kruger National Park.

Veterinary immunologist Michelle Miller said TB had been found in South Africa in lions, leopards, cheetahs, wild dogs, honey badgers, mongooses, warthogs, kudu, nyala, bushbuck and rhinos.

Drought, restricted habitat and increased competition for natural resources contributed to the spread of TB, Miller said.

To fight the disease and determine the extent of its spread, researchers at Stellenbosch University are working to develop tests to detect TB in wildlife.

Animals that test positive would be isolated.

Infected animals cannot be moved from one herd or range to another, as is necessary in a restricted habitat to support genetic diversity.

Miller said: "We don't know if TB will reduce animals' reproductive capacity, [which would be especially worrying] in endangered species."

Researchers estimate that the lion population of the park could decline for the next 15 years because of TB fatalities, but Miller cautioned that scientists lacked sufficient information about the disease in wildlife to make reliable predictions.

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