Increase in rabies outbreaks among Namibian kudus

Increase in rabies outbreaks among Namibian kudus

The decimation of Namibia’s kudu population due to rabies, especially on game-fenced farms, poses a severe and long-term threat to the country’s game industry.

This was according to Dr Ulf Tubbesing, a wildlife vet in Namibia, who said that chances were good that the disease had also spread to South Africa and Botswana since the first outbreak in the 1970s.

Kudu bulls were one of the most sought-after and slowest-maturing trophy hunting animals in Namibia, with bulls’ horns only reaching trophy length at eight years of age. Thus, the loss of these animals had a very negative effect on the game industry.

“[Rabies] usually spreads rapidly, wiping out the entire affected group,” he said.

During the past two to three years, the incidence of kudu rabies had spread south from the traditional rabies region in central Namibia to the far southern parts of the country, including areas located on the South African border, he said.

“South African landowners would be well advised to remain on the lookout for rabies cases and report it without delay.”

According to Dr Rainer Hassel, technical adviser of the Namibian Kudu Rabies Project, rabies had been independently maintained in the Namibian kudu population.

The first epidemic started in 1977 and lasted for nine years. In 2001, the disease occurred mainly in the central region and northern parts of Namibia.

“The rabies virus underwent fine genetic changes, [which] is maintained in our kudu population,” he said.