One in seven rhinos in the Kruger National Park are infected with the pathogen that causes bovine tuberculosis, according to new research.
Scientists tested samples from 437 rhinos, collected from 2016 to 2020, and found the Mycobacterium bovis germ in 15.4% of them.
But this does not mean the animals are diseased or dying. Stellenbosch University animal TB research group leader Michele Miller said their immune systems were keeping it in check.
“They are not losing weight or coughing, and if you looked at a group of 400 rhinos you wouldn’t be able to pick out those that are infected. They can potentially live for years with infection if it is contained,” said Miller.
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also involved the SA National Parks (SANParks) veterinary wildlife services and San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.
Senior author Carmel Witte, from San Diego, said bovine TB occurs in wildlife systems throughout the world
“In the US, spillover of infection from cattle has spread to white-tailed deer in Michigan. This, in turn, can create spillback of infection into livestock, and carries a risk of spread to other wildlife and people,” said Witte.