Factors Associated With Morbidity And Mortality In Selected Ungulate Species In Al Ain Wildlife Park And Resort, United Arab Emirates.
Chege, Stephen Maina
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Captive populations of endangered species are often viewed as a safeguard against extinction, and in the case of extinction in the wild, a last chance for revival. The current study was conducted at the AI Ain Wildlife Park and Resort in the United Arab Emirates, a facility that has a collection of captive population of endangered and threatened wildlife species. The objectives of the study were: I) To estimate the crude and cause-specific morbidity and mortality rates in six selected species of ungulates at the Al Ain Wildlife Park and Resort; and 2) To identify risk factors associated with morbidity and mortality in the selected ungulate species. The study was conducted in two phases. In the first phase, historical data (species, population size, age, sex, and deaths) covering the period 2005 to 2010 were evaluated and used to estimate the crude morbidity and moifality true rates of the selected species. The species selected were the Addax, Arabian oryx, Dama gazelle, Mhorr gazelle, Scimitar- homed oryx, and the Speke's gazelle. In the second phase, a cohort ofthe study species was followed-up for a period of six months starting from January to June 20 II. The longitudinal data obtained during this phase included species of the ungulates, population size, age, sex, losses (deaths and migrations), additions (births and acquisitions) and birth weights. Postmortem was done on any animal that died during the study period to establish the cause of death. Biological samples (blood and swabs [nasal and faecal]) were collected from sick animals for microbiological diagnosis. Crude and cause-specific morbidity and mortality true rates were estimated for each of the species. The ris.k factor-s for the observed morbidity and mortality were assessed using logistic regression models. The historical data revealed that the overall morbidity at the park doubled from a low of 20% in 2005 to a high of 40% in 2010. In the same period mortality increased from 11% to 21% as at the end of 2010. Of the six species considered, the Speke's gazelle suffered from the highest morbidity and mortality. Trauma was the leading cause of morbidity with a proportional morbidity rate of 44% while trauma and septicaemia were the major causes of mortality with proportional mortalities estimated at 54% and 22%, respectively. The overall crude morbidity and mortality true rates generated using the six-month longitudinal data were 19.7% and 11.3% per animal-six months, respectively. The significant (p < 0.05) risk factors for morbidity were age, sex and species with younger animals (less than 30 days) being seven times (odds ratio = 7) more likely to become sick when compared to animals above 30 days of age. Similarly, male animals were five times (odds ratio = 5) more likely to get sick when compared 10 females. Speke's gazelle was 4 times (odds ratio = 4) more likely to get sick relative to other species. Age and species were the significant (p < 0.05) factors associated with mortality with neonates being twenty two times (odds ratio = 22) more likely to die when compared to older animals and Speke's gazelle being 5 times (odds ratio = 5) mor~ likely to die relative to other species. Speke's gazelle suffered highest morbidity (34% per animal-six months) and mortality (26% per animal-six months) compared to other species. Of the causes of morbidity observed, trauma, septicaemia, and diarrhoea had the highest rates estimated at 7.2%,3.7%, and 2.9% per animal-six months, respectively. Septicaemia was the major cause of mortality estimated at 4.2% per animal-six months. In conclusion the observed morbidity and mortality were high and therefore immediate measures should be taken to address the problem including: the formation of . herds consisting of a single male and several females (harems) and bachelor herds to be pursued and establish networks to exchange surplus males. It is also recommended to initiate studies to investigate the association between low birth weight and potential inbreeding of the population .. The researcher aims to be publish the findings of this study in a peer reviewed journal and appendix 2 shows a draft manuscript which will be sent for consideration of being published.