Friday 19 July 2019

A skin disease spreading in wild giraffes may be a parasitic attack

JULY 12, 2019
by Genevieve Rajewski, Tufts University
Besides their graceful long necks and legs, giraffes are most recognizable by their distinctive spots. Now, conservationists are concerned about a different sort of spots on giraffes, made up of dead tissue and crusty sores that ooze blood or pus.
First seen in wild African giraffes in the 1990s but also observed in captive animals, giraffe skin disease likely is made up of multiple diseases that have been lumped together under one name. "It's still too soon to tell," said Cummings School Research Assistant Professor Chris Whittier, V97. "There are probably several possible pathogens involved."
The resulting unsightly condition doesn't appear life-threatening by itself. But conservationists worry that it may compromise the animals' overall health and affect reproduction, leading to population declines, which they can't afford.
"Universally, giraffes are very much in decline, primarily from habitat loss but also from poaching," said Whittier, director of Tufts' master's in conservation medicine program. "We can't ignore secondary threats, such as infectious diseases, because any little thing could become an extinction-level event when there aren't many individuals of certain species left." (For just such an example, read how a viral goat disease nearly decimated an endangered subspecies of antelope.)

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