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Parasites of the African painted dog (Lycaon pictus) in captive and wild populations: Implications for conservation

Ash, Amanda (2011) Parasites of the African painted dog (Lycaon pictus) in captive and wild populations: Implications for conservation. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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      Abstract

      The African painted dog (Lycaon pictus) is a highly endangered carnivore of sub- Saharan Africa, which in the last century has suffered a population decline of almost 99%. With only 3,000-5,500 animals remaining in the wild it is imperative to understand all threatening processes to which these animals may be exposed. The impact that parasites and other infectious agents have on wildlife has been increasingly recognized within conservation programs. Stressors such as human encroachment and habitat destruction are altering the incidence and effect that these pathogens have on wildlife populations, especially those endangered and under stress.

      A parasitological study was conducted on captive and wild populations of the African painted dog over a three year period. Collaborations with three captive animal facilities and three in situ conservation groups within Africa allowed for a broad sample base from which variation in parasite prevalence and diversity could be identified. A combination of traditional microscopy techniques and molecular characterisation of parasite species were employed to obtain comprehensive data on the prevalence and diversity of gastrointestinal parasites observed in faecal samples collected from painted dogs.

      Parasite prevalence within wild populations was 99% with a similar parasite community composition observed among all three wild populations. Five of the seven parasite genera observed in this study have not been reported before in this host. Additionally, molecular characterisations identified the potentially zoonotic species Giardia duodenalis, Ancylostoma braziliense and an ambiguous species of taeniid, all of which have also not been previously reported in this host.

      The prevalence of parasites within captive populations was 15% with Giardia duodenalis being the dominant of the only two parasite species observed. The overall lack of prevalence and diversity of parasites observed in captive populations could be of significance for facilities involved in reintroduction programs. Particularly as immunologically naïve captive animals may be unable to cope with exposure to a ‘natural’ parasite load in the wild environment, leading to an ultimate decrease in reintroduction success.

      Gastrointestinal parasites detected in faecal samples from wild and captive populations of the African painted dog during this study
      Parasite Taxon observed

      Wild Captive
      Taeniid Giardia
      Ancylostoma Spirometra
      Spirometra
      Giardia
      Coccidia
      Sarcocystis
      Filaroides

      This study has obtained detailed baseline data of parasitism within populations of the African painted dog in captive and wild environments. The large proportion of new discoveries in this study demonstrates the paucity of information currently available on parasitism within this host species. It is hoped this information will assist in conservation efforts by a) recognising the challenges of parasite control in captive populations, particularly those involved in reintroduction and/or translocation programs, and b) being able to identify deviations from baseline parasite levels in wild populations which could be indications for emerging exotic and/or zoonotic disease.

      Publication Type: Thesis (PhD)
      Murdoch Affiliation: School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences
      Supervisor: Thompson, Andrew, Lymbery, Alan and Lemon, John
      URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/10519
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