Kruger is the crown jewel of South Africa’s wildlife reserves: a major draw for tourists, it is huge, one of the largest game reserves in Africa. Located in the northeast of the country, it covers an area of 7,523 square miles and extends 220 miles from north to south and 40 miles from east to west.
Anthrax, a highly contagious disease, has been wreaking havoc in this park, killing Roan antelope as well as hippos.
Vultures or blowflies could have eaten the flesh of the roan antelope and then went to drink, and that is how the hippos contracted anthrax. That’s the theory at present, said South African National Parks (SANParks) spokesman Ike Phaahla.
Post mortems of 30 hippo carcasses have been linked to the bacterial disease, which can also be fatal to humans. Six more dead animals were found at the weekend and are being examined.
Gradually we’ve been finding them,¯ Phaahla said.
Kruger is home to Africa’s “Big Five”: rhino, lion, elephant, leopard and Cape Buffalo.
Animals such as lions could be affected if they eat the contaminated flesh of dead animals.
Anthrax is a fatal disease caused by the Bacillus anthracis bacteria, and is dangerous to both animals and humans. You may remember the 2001 anthrax scares in the US, when letters containing anthrax were mailed to various well-known people, causing at least five deaths.
In Kruger National Park, anthrax could be even more of a problem for the antelopes than for the hippos. That’s because there were only about 100 Roan antelopes in the park even before the anthrax outbreak; given that anthrax has killed 45 Roan antelopes since August, this could have a major impact on their survival in the park.
Luckily, although it is rare in Kruger National Park, the Roan antelope is found throughout Africa, and is one of the largest species of antelope. It is very distinctive, with its long ears and a cute black and white face:
Outbreaks of anthrax, a naturally occurring disease, “normally happens from time to time during this time of the year,” a statement from South Africa National Parks said.
And then there are the rhinos. Two months ago, as Care2′s Kristina Chew reported, 100 rhinos had been killed in less than two months in Kruger National Park. AFP reports that this surge¯ in rhino killings by poachers means that the number of the endangered animals killed this year could surpass the total of 381 killed last year.
What can be done to help these animals?
Rangers are being vigilant and asking visitors to report any sick or dead animals that they witness, and of course to not touch them. According to park officials, previous outbreaks have seen the disease naturally tail off once the rains arrive, and when animal numbers are lower.
Killing by poachers requires stricter regulations, but killing by anthrax may be seen as nature taking its course.
What do you think?
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