Age-specific gastrointestinal parasite shedding in free-ranging cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) on Namibian farmland
The cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus Brookes 1828) is classified as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Threats to cheetah populations are a decrease of suitable habitats, an increase of conflicts with livestock farmers and potentially pathogens. While there is some information on the viral and bacterial pathogens circulating in cheetah populations, information on gastrointestinal parasites is scarce. Here, we investigate the gastrointestinal parasites in 39 free-ranging cheetahs in east-central Namibia using a coproscopical parasitological method. Most cheetahs (82%) shed eggs from Ancylostoma which comprised the majority of the total eggs in feces. Eggs and oocysts from Toxascaris (21% of cheetahs), Coccidia (13%), Physaloptera (8%), Taeniidae (5%), Dipylidium (3%), and Diphyllobothriidae (3%) were present at a lower prevalence. Parasite richness and Ancylostoma egg load were higher in juveniles and adults compared to cubs, but were not associated with sex. To our knowledge, this is the first study that assessed gastrointestinal parasites in free-ranging cheetahs and is a key starting point for future studies on the effect of parasites in this threatened species.
KeywordsAcinonyx jubatus Ancylostoma Gastrointestinal parasites Protozoa Cestoda Nematodes
We are grateful to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism in Namibia for permission to conduct this study and to the farmers of the Seeis conservancy for their collaboration and help. We would like to thank Sonja K. Heinrich, Joerg Melzheimer, Ivan Palmegiani, Ruben Portas, Bernd Wasiolka, and all field assistants for sample collections in the field. We thank Katja Pohle and Dagmar Thierer for their valuable help in laboratory analyses.
The study was funded by the DFG Research Training Group (GRK) 2046 “Parasite Infections: From Experimental Models to Natural Systems,” by the Messerli Foundation, Switzerland, and by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Germany. The funding sources were not involved in the study design, data collection, analyses, interpretation of data, writing of the report, and in the decision to submit the article for publication.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All experimental procedures described in the material and methods were approved by the Internal Ethics Committee of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) (permit number #2002-04-01) and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism of Namibia (permit numbers 1300/2008, 1392/2009, 1514/2010, 1514/2011, 1689/2012, 1813/2013, 1914/2014, and 2067/2015). All experiments were carried out in compliance with the approved guidelines of the IZW and the laws of Germany and Namibia.
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