There are many reasons for the "death of a
lion" but natural causes would be the preferred choice....
******* See bottom of
page for BBC Video ********
BTB in lions (photo Kruger National
Park - Lower Sabie)
It is estimated that between 80-90% of
Kruger Lions, from Satara to Crocodile Bridge and Pretoriuskop has TB in various
Tuberculosis, which affects a lions digestive tract, is transmitted through the
eating of buffalo, which are virus carriers through domestic cattle. Kudus and
other prey species are also carriers of TB. Lions with tuberculosis lose
so much weight in such a short period of time that among other things, they are
prone to more illnesses such as the FI Virus.
What is : BOVINE TUBERCULOSIS (BTB)
A bacterial disease
caused by Mycobacterium bovis, closely related to Mycobacterium tuberculosis
First diagnosed in the
Kruger National Park in July 1990
mostly in the South of the Kruger, it is thought that Buffalo (being the
primary host) contracted BTB from diseased cattle in the Malelane to
BTB has spread to other
species e.g.. lion, leopard, cheetah, Kudu and Baboons. The lion population
seem to be the hardest hit.
In Buffalo and Kudu
this disease is spread by coughing or breathing in another animals breathing
space (close to the nostrils or mouth), also by coughing on grass or leaves
which are then eaten by others.
As lions feed on these
animals they are infected. Unfortunately for predators, this is a
painful death. The become severely emaciated before dying.
Observing these lions
over a period one might first observe weight loss, difficulty in breathing,
coughing, back legs seem to wobble and after a few days, the hind legs are
dragged along, loss of appetite, unable to lie or sleep without getting
sores on the areas where the bones protrude, similar to bedsores, and the symptoms
go on and on.......
The virus that causes feline
Aids (Feline immunodeficiency virus or FIV) and the bacterium (Mycobacterium
bovis) that causes bovine tuberculosis are present in the approx 2000
lions that roam the Kruger National Park
According to scientists the
virus, in the lions of the Kruger, is benign and does not cause any real
problems for these lions. Lions in captivity might be affected and is spread
through bites and scratch wounds.
It is said that of lions in the
southern parts of the Kruger approx 80-90 per cent of lions tested were
exposed or were infected with bovine tuberculosis, although not all show
signs. This is also the area with the highest concentration of Buffalo that
are TB positive buffalo. Lions in the northern parts of the Kruger still
seem to be TB negative. Bovine TB is contracted from infected prey species,
especially buffalo, which in turn are infected by droplets spread by
coughing. Lions, usually killing sick/old/injured animals or feeding on the
dead (usually from diseases) target the sick buffalo. Males, by their “lions
share” eating habits, eat the lungs that are the primary site for the TB
bacteria and lesions. Lions have a shorter time span between infection and
death. Kudu, warthog etc are also hosts to BTB.
A vaccine trial is being
researched to prevent BTB in buffalo and hopefully this, in years to come
could be useful for lions.
An acute FATAL bacterial
Spread to water holes by
scavengers, mostly vultures.
contaminated by blow-flies and most vulnerable are the buffalo and to a
larger extend Kudu and Roan-antelope, which, by virtue of their eating
habits makes lions next on the list. (Blow-flies are disseminators of
Symptoms include swollen
faces, dark tar like blood oozing from body opening - sudden death.
Although Anthrax in lions
can in no way compare to BTB, it still contributes to the death of many
lions. (No figures has been published on lions)
The floods during the
first few months of the year 2000 has helped with the blow-fly problem,
it might just be a temporary one.
Apart from the diseases
mentioned above, viruses, ticks and natural deaths, what else is
destroying the lion population?
Mortality after three to
five years of infection. Transmission is via biting. (Note all animals
progress to AIDS)
Symptoms include : depression, wasting, diarrhea, neurological diseases
Video footage used: Courtesy of
BBC Nature Wildlife - displaying BBC video's on
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