Anthrax – nature’s lethal weapon

The word anthrax sounds scary and for some it is. Understanding anthrax appeals to few, but the hype that is created around anthrax is amusing!

Why do people get so upset when animals die? Animals die every day in the wild in the struggle for survival and what is ironic is, that many tourists will pay a fortune to see a predator make a kill whilst they’re on the back of a game-viewing vehicle!  Is it beacuse so many animals die at once? Is it the side effects of the disease?

Recently in Zambia, anthrax killed a number of hippo and buffalo,  although initially there were conflicting reports from the “powers-that-be” anthrax was confirmed and the situation became SERIOUS!

Herewith part of an e-mail from a caring member of the community who tried to people at rest at the beginning of September…

Dear All

   As most of you are aware about the hippos that are keeling over and dieing …, I would just like to inform you that we are waiting for the test results to come back so that we have a definite answer about what is happening. So far we are just speculating that it is Anthrax due to the signs of bleeding from Anus and Nose. It is effecting the hippos most, however there have been a few dead buffalos in the park and GMA.

  There is no reason to panic though even if it is Anthrax, it is a naturally occurring disease which bares its head every few years due to climatic conditions. The spores are able to lie dormant for many years in the soil.

I have attached two links to very helpful sites which deal with Anthrax in Humans and in Wildlife. We as humans are not at major risk, unless we ingest an animals meat that has died from Anthrax. A form of anthrax which effects the skin and can cause blistering can be contracted if handling the carcases of dead beasts. This can be treated simply with a course of Anti-biotics…

Please if you do see any fresh carcases report them … and if possible take a GPS reading to pass on to us. As you have seen some carcases have been covered with Lime. This is to dissuade scavengers from opening the carcases and spreading the spores. It is just a preventative measure which we were advised to take …

 I will let everyone know the results of tests as soon as we have them, but in the meantime please report fresh carcases, don’t touch the carcases without gloves, drive to close, or eat the meat!!!  

Anthrax in Wildlife           http://www.iucn-vsg.org/documents/anthrax.pdf

Anthrax and Humans:     http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002301/

Of course their are many, many hippopotamus pods and large herds of buffalo and both species share a liking for shallow pools – the hippo like the pools because they like to take a rest from the might Zambezi river current and the buffalo enjoy the mud at the edge of the pools, they are also both grazers.  It would be interesting to find the source of the spores that can lie dormant for many years and if there is a connection between man-made channels leading inland from the Zambezi River or if this is pureply nature’s way of decreasing the populations.

Now for the Serious stuff…

Another letter, but this time,  two weeks later, it is a PLEA…

Greetings all

Thanks to … we have been informed today of some lions showing signs of swelling around the mouth and face as well as drooling thick white mucous. As a result … went down to photograph them and check for ourselves. Indeed it was a scary sight! The poor beasts are suffering from obvious signs of Anthrax, obviously from gorging themselves on infected carcasses. At first we didn’t think they could be affected but unfortunately that is obviously not the case.

The warden has been notified as to has the government vet and Dr … Doc  is on his way down with the government vet and hope they will be here tomorrow. At the moment our aim is to treat these lions as soon as possible with penicillin as well as inoculate them and possibly all the lions in the area.

We will need everyones co-operation on this please and request that any lion sightings be reported immediately … We also ask that the guides take notice of any swelling around the mouths or head and neck region or signs of drooling excessively. At the same time though we will need space and privacy to work on the lions so will ask that all game drives stay away if they see us busy with lions. We might be out all day and night tomorrow so will need everyones co-operation and if needed we will call for assistance.

Thank you all in advance.

As it stands at the moment we have lost over 40 hippo, 15 buffalo, 4 Civets and possibly 2 elephants to this outbreak. All are unconfirmed as they haven’t been tested and there may be more which we have missed.

The first reported cases were this time last month.

If anyone has had contact with the carcases or handled them in anyway please take a course of Ampicillin for precautions.

Thanks and hopefully with everyones help we can save our lions. According to Dr … if we treat them soon then they will bounce back fast.

So there we have it from DONT PANIC to PLEASE HELP.  This is what humans are all about, we want nature to take it course but we’ll do anything we can to prevent animals from dying due to natural diseases because at the end of the day, it’s not nice to see dead animals but it certainly is great to see lions feeding off their own kill!

🙂

On a more serious note, if you ever see grazers bleeding from the nose or anus or lots of saliva dripping from the mouths of predators, please report it to the local authorities, park rangers and wardens do need all the help they can get to manage their parks and reserves!

Herewith the sad pictures of the infected lions:

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4 Responses to “Anthrax – nature’s lethal weapon”

  1. Trailsafari says:

    Good News!

    An update regarding the lions.

    Doc came down at very short notice as did a Govt Vet from Siavonga. The ZAWA ecologist was also here on the ground, who was also a huge help. The last couple of days we have been chasing lions all over the place, with special emphasis on those badly effected lionsl.

    So far 4 x adult females have been treated for anthrax,

    4 x sub adult males have been treated

    1 x sub adult female treated.

    1 x adult female ( the one with 4 month old cubs ) has been vaccinated

    2 x 4 month old cubs vaccinated

  2. Trailsafari says:

    Even more good news…

    “Dear All

    We managed to Treat a big male this afternoon, Doc was already on his way home and upstream when the call came in, thanks to a local lodge owner who brought him straight back again and to the lodge downstream for watching the lions. All went well, he was successfully treated and woke up fine, he is quite recognizeable with his red Mohican streak so we don’t dart him again. Doc has now headed back home but will come down again to do further vaccinations and treatments if any sick lions sighted.

    Thanks again to all”

  3. Rob Store says:

    I have just returned from a fishing trip (17 – 24 September 2011) on the Zambezi river at Sapi East of Mana Pools and noticed between 10 and 15 dead Hippos that appeared to have died from Anthrax. With the recent flooding of the area due to the release of water from Kariba I feel that this may have unearthed Anthrax spoor previously berried above the high level mark.

    Can anyone confirm the date and area of the effected lions?

  4. Trailsafari says:

    Yes, the lower Zambezi Valley is where it is at. Your point is valid. I spoke to someone yesterday and they said it could alos be from all the development along the banks that they have dug up the spores! Either way – not so nice.

 
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