KNP loses African wild dogs to diseases

The Kruger National Park (KNP) lost a pack of 16 African wild dogs, known as the Lower Sabie pack, towards the weekend of 21-22 May, to canine distemper.

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“We have never experienced the disease in the park before but it’s common in other areas,” said KNP spokesperson William Mabasa.

In a statement, KNP said the virus often circulates in wildlife without clinical signs or mortalities. The exact source of the particular virus which affected the pack is not certain, but the infection could have been due to contact with a feral dog or one of the other wildlife species infected by the disease.

A joint investigation by both SANParks and State Veterinarians of various ways of managing the situation, such as increased monitoring of all other packs in the area and the possibility of targeted vaccination of adult wild dogs, is underway.

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“African wild dog packs do not often make contact with each other, therefore chances of other packs of dogs in the southern KNP becoming infected by this pack are very small however we remain alert. Such cases have shown that 100% mortality can occur if it infects a particular pack of wild dogs,” said Markus Hofmeyr, KNP’s general manager, Veterinary Wildlife Services.

“The long-term solution to the problem is frequent vaccination of domestic dogs around conservation areas and we advise the public especially those in local communities bordering the park to stick to routine vaccination of their domestic dogs as this assists us as well,” he added.