3 diseases spread by wildlife

Contact with wildlife can endanger your livestock, because wild animals are a source of diseases that seriously affect the productivity of livestock and even lead to death.

Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD)
This affects all cloven-hoofed animals such as cattle, pigs, sheep and goats. African buffaloes in the Kruger Park are the ‘maintenance hosts’, but do not show signs of the disease.

Susceptible animals get the disease when they come into contact with infected animals. They inhale droplets containing the virus (germ) that causes FMD that were breathed out by animals carrying FMD. In some cases FMD is spread by objects contaminated by the virus. There is no vector involved.

Signs of the disease are found in the mouth and on feet. The animal’s tongue will have vesicles (blisters), which burst easily, leaving the tongue with bleeding areas. Blisters are also seen on the snout, between the hooves, on the heel and just above the hoof.

FMD results in economic loss for the farmer as well as for the country. Infected cattle cannot eat or walk effectively for several days, causing lactating cows to dry up and beef animals to lose weight.

Also, during outbreaks in cattle, the export of certain agricultural products is banned.

Control: The following measures should be adhered to:

  • Prevent uncontrolled movement of all animals and their products out of an area where FMD is common (endemic area). A legal movement permit should be produced when transporting animals and their products out of these areas.
  • Vaccinate cattle and other ruminants in endemic areas, as well as those adjacent these.
  • FMD-free areas should be separated from FMD areas by fences. Any breaches in the fences should be reported to the Directorate Veterinary Services of the department of agriculture. 

Corridor disease (CD)

CD affects only cattle that graze on pastures where African buffaloes are grazing or have recently grazed. The germ causing the disease is carried by brown ear ticks.

Signs of the disease include decreased milk production, increased temperature, watery fluid coming from the eyes, very big lymph nodes, coughing, difficult breathing and froth from the nose. Death usually occurs.

In South Africa, the disease occurs in the Kruger Park, game reserves in KwaZulu-Natal and adjacent farms where cattle and buffaloes are in close contact. Buffaloes must test negative before they can be moved to game parks in corridor disease-free regions.

Control: Erect fences to keep infected buffaloes and cattle separate. Practice effective tick control measures (Ask your vet for advice here.)

African swine fever (ASF)

Warthogs and bush pigs are the natural hosts of ASF. The virus causing the disease is spread to domestic pigs by tampans (a type of tick).

Signs of ASF include a high temperature, loss of appetite, inability to walk properly, with weakness in the back legs, red skin (with the extremities a bluish colour), discharge from the eyes and nose, bloody diarrhoea or constipation, breathing difficulties, recumbency (lying down) and death. Sows may abort.

A legal permit is needed when moving pigs into or out of ASF areas.

Control: There is no vaccine. Prevent contact between domestic pigs and natural hosts. Do not feed swill that might contain pig or wild pig meat or products.

* Compiled by Directorate Agricultural Information Services in co-operation with ARC-Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute. Remember: when in doubt consult your vet or extension officer.