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Sverker

Wateholes spreading disease?

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I saw a picture here from Chobe with hundreds of elephants at a waterhole.

 

How big are the risks for these animals to spread all kinds of waterbourne diseases?

 

Just wondering ...

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There are certainly real risks -particularly with Anthrax.

 

Vultures often wash in shallow water after feeding. A vulture that has fed on an ungulate which has died of Anthrax could therefore inadvertently contaminate a waterhole with Anthrax spores. Elephants are prone to Anthrax from both contaminated soil and contaminated water. I think I remember hearing about an elephant die-off due to Anthrax at Nakabolelwa in Namibia two or three years ago.

 

Anthrax was responsible for a large number of hippo deaths in Uganda in 2004 and there have also been periodic outbreaks in Kruger. This link gives some useful info: http://www.krugerpark.co.za/krugerpark-times-e-6-anthrax-outbreak-in-kruger-25276.html

 

Don't drink the water and never kiss a vulture!!! :unsure:

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Indeed anthrax can be a major problem. At Etosha, pot holes on tourist roads have been known to be reservoirs for anthrax after collecting rain water. In Kruger, roan antelope have been especially susceptible. They used to get darted with vaccines every year.

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Posted (edited)

When in Botswana last year in August, we saw two different Elephants that were dead (we were led to them when following the wild dogs) - they fed on a little bit of the carcass, but, were mostly uninterested. It was also strange to see that regardless of the stench of the carcass, it didn't seem to attract any other scavengers. Even the vultures just came and left .......... Not sure why???

 

Dogs did feed on the fresh carcass on day one - only very little and then went off to kill an impala about some 400 m from the carcass!!! Not sure if the elephant had a disease or just that the dogs eat fresh food????

 

http://500px.com/madaboutcheetah/photos

 

Pics in link above

Edited by madaboutcheetah

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The problem is that the Anthrax bacillus lies dormant as spores in the soil of contaminated ground (soil where the carcase of an animal killed by anthrax has lain). As spores the organism can survive heat and drought for years -only to spring into life with resulting death at a later date. Herbivores -especially certain grazers such as cattle/buffalo and Hippotragine antelope seem to be most at risk.

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Much to most people's surprise Anthrax is endemic across much of Africa and is very commonly seen in the local hospitals. The bacteria lie dormant in just about every soil sample people take from rangelands. They are found in some of their highest densities on thorns, as plants use them as a form of biological weapon (check the story about thorns on my blog!). All the evidence suggests that vultures, despite farmer's dislike, are actually very effective at keeping down diseases like Anthrax - increases in human Anthrax have been reported in asia recently which people are attributing to the catastrophic decline in vulture popualtions (again, I've posted about the much less appreciated African vulture declines and these consequences here and here). The evidence suggests that whilst vultures certainly shouldn't be kissed(!) in most cases when washing after eating the dilution effect of a small amount of Anthrax in a largish volume of water results in a tiny increased risk over normal soil contamination, though certainly sometimes there is a problem (and elephants and buffalo in particular die - but anthrax is blamed in part for the virtual elimination of wildebeest from Etosha in the 1970s). It's not that common for this to occur in East Africa where (a) we have few fences and (B) we don't provide water holes as a matter of course - Etosha's problems began with a vetinary fence and the subsequent provision of waterholes, antrhax outbreaks weren't recorded before then. There's a nice review of the whole Anthrax infection cycles (blowflies and direct carcass contamination routes are a much bigger problem) here, and an even more accessible one (including the Etosha story) here.

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There are certainly real risks -particularly with Anthrax.

 

Vultures often wash in shallow water after feeding. A vulture that has fed on an ungulate which has died of Anthrax could therefore inadvertently contaminate a waterhole with Anthrax spores. Elephants are prone to Anthrax from both contaminated soil and contaminated water. I think I remember hearing about an elephant die-off due to Anthrax at Nakabolelwa in Namibia two or three years ago.

 

Anthrax was responsible for a large number of hippo deaths in Uganda in 2004 and there have also been periodic outbreaks in Kruger. This link gives some useful info: http://www.krugerpark.co.za/krugerpark-times-e-6-anthrax-outbreak-in-kruger-25276.html

 

Don't drink the water and never kiss a vulture!!! unsure.gif

 

~ @@Rainbirder

 

Practical advice, should one ever ever become intimate with a vulture at a waterhole.

When I've asked about anthrax risks while in Kenya, the response has typically been indifference or scoffing at the question.

I appreciate the advice and explanation written by several Safaritalk members in this thread.

Tom K.

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