CANINE DISTEMPER VIRUS IN HLUHLUWE-IMFOLOZI PARK

Wild dog 1 smallEzemvelo KZN Wildlife (Ezemvelo) and the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) has to sadly announce that the Wild Dog pack in the north of Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (commonly referred to as the Crossroads pack) has died due to suspected Canine Distemper Virus.

Officials of Ezemvelo and EWT were on routine monitoring of the pack through the use of a VHF tracking collar fitted to the pack’s beta female when they made the discovery. This collar indicated that the pack had been stationary for 36 hours. This observation was made three weeks or so ago and given the highly active nature of Wild Dogs, which tend to hunt twice a day, the alarm was raised.

On approaching the location of the collar, the officials discovered a number of dead Wild Dogs, while others were lethargic and showing signs of illness, including neurological problems and laboured breathing. These animals were monitored, food and care was offered over the next few days, but unfortunately all ultimately succumbed to their illness, despite the team’s best efforts.

Ezemvelo veterinarians conducted the post-mortem. Earlier indications are that the entire Wild Dog pack died from Canine Distemper Disease, however, confirmation is still required from the samples that have been sent off for analysis.

African Wild Dogs are the most endangered carnivore in South Africa, yet Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park holds the second largest population in the country after the Kruger National Park. The death of this pack of 12 Wild Dogs has reduced the number of Wild Dog packs in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park to six and the total number of Wild Dogs in the park to 57.

Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park has, over the years, acted as a feeder population to numerous other national parks and private game reserves around South Africa and the loss of this pack is a large blow for the National Metapopulation that has now been reduced by 5%. Additionally, not only has the loss of this pack reduced the national population (which includes Kruger National Park and some free roaming wild dogs) of wild dogs by 2.5% but this also follows on from cases of Canine Distemper Virus being confirmed in Wild Dogs from Khamab Kalahari Reserve in 2013 and more recently in Kruger National Park and Tswalu Kalahari Reserve in 2016. Canine Distemper Virus has been shown to infect numerous species worldwide and is not confined to carnivores.

With this in mind, Ezemvelo and EWT teams have developed a plan of action to prevent similar losses occurring in the future. This includes, as a priority, vaccinating all individuals of two key packs in the park. These individuals will be revaccinated in a year’s time to determine the longevity of the vaccine in Wild Dogs.

Simultaneously, all blood samples taken in the park over the last five to ten years will be analyzed in order to determine what level of natural immunities to disease (including Canine Distemper Virus) occur within the Wild Dog population in the park.

The health and progress of all Wild Dogs in the park will continue to be monitored closely over the next 12 months, as was indeed always the case. This action plan follows a very similar approach to that of Kruger National Park in order to align results and knowledge gained into a national understanding for the future conservation and protection of Wild Dogs against infectious diseases.
For further enquiries please contact me on the following details.

Musa Mntambo
Communications Manager
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife
Tel: +27 (0) 33 845 1743
Cell: +27 (0) 83 284 9586
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