Elephant darted, tested for tuberculosis in Kruger National Park (Pretoria) 


Mashudu Sadike, IOL

Date Published
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About 49 elephants have been tested for human tuberculosis (TB) across the Kruger National Park since an adult bull was found dead because of the disease in 2016.

During a South African National Parks (SanParks) media tour in the world renowned park another young bull elephant was darted and immobilised by Kruger Park scientists from a helicopter in order to test the animal for the deadly disease.

Speaking to journalists, senior veterinarian Dr Peter Buss said the animals were tested on a frequent basis, depending on funding, so as to control the situation.

The project is funded by Stellenbosch University at R5 000 for each time they have to immobilised one animal.

“In 2016 we found an elephant that had died and when we did a post-mortem on the elephant we found that it had human TB which was totally unexpected and as a result we set up this project to look at other elephants just to see if it was one isolated incident or there was a bigger problem than we thought.

“So what we have done here is to immobilise the elephant and take various samples to test it for TB. Those samples are taken from the lungs but we also take blood samples from the elephant to do a diagnostic test that we can run tests on to see if it’s positive for TB or not.”

Buss however said they would not be able to treat the animals in a case where they would find TB.

“The reason we can’t treat them is that if you consider how to treat a human with TB it takes anywhere from six to nine months to treat them with daily tablets so there is just no way to implement that treatment regime in a free ranging wild animal.

It was not yet clear as to how the animal contracted human TB.

“We have to imagine that this elephant could have gone out to communities and gained access to food, but that is just a guess,” Buss said.