Elephant contracts (human) tuberculosis at Kruger National Park, dies on side of the road


By Bongani Sazy Siziba


Zimbabwe and Mozambique possess huge tourist opportunities which are central to the recovery of their economies.

Zimbabwe’s star attractions include Victoria Falls, Hwange National Park, Mana Pools and Gonarezhou National Parks, and Great Zimbabwe among others. Mozambique’s key wildlife attractions are at Gorongosa and Banhire National Parks.

In celebration of the World Rangers Day, South Africa National Parks has hailed these two neighbours for their contributions in the conservation of wildlife in the sub-region.

Speaking at the Kruger National Park this week, General Manager of Communications and Marketing, Ike Phahla said: “We fully understand the challenges that our counterparts face when it comes to resourses. But when it comes to giving our scientists access we are very happy with the co-operation we getting from both countries, whether it is anti-poaching or conservation issues,” Phahla said.

On the ongoing human wildlife crisis in Botswana, Phahla said Botswana was yet to ask for assistance.

“We do not have anything that has come out as a formal request from Botswana to assist them with problem elephants.”

News going into the celebration of the World Ranger’s day this week, was that South Africa is trying to reveal out how a Kruger Park elephant got infected with a human-strain tuberculosis.

The elephant died at the Kruger National Park next to the road this week, and after rangers and vets investigated, they found out that the elephant had died thin, though its teeth (a key sign of an elephant’s health) were intact.

Further tests found that the elephant had contracted TB from humans, leading to a research project being launched by South African National Parks (SANParks) in partnership with Stellenbosch University.

Dr Peter Buss, head of veterinary services at SANParks Veterinary Services, said they were puzzled at how an elephant was infected with TB, but chances were that it took food, or waste left behind in its territory.

“We found that the lungs were badly affected. About 80% of its lungs were not functional. We took samples to various laboratories. When the results came back, they confirmed that it was TB – not bovine but human TB,” said Dr Buss.

“It is only the one case (to date), so It’s actually very difficult for us to predict what may, or may not happen,” said Prof Michell Miller from the University of Stellenbosch.

While bovine TB is common in several species in the wild, including elephants, the occurrence of human TB in wild animals is considered an anomaly.

“The big thinking is not as much a focus on the individual animal as it is on the population and also because TB is a multi-host disease, one that can move between species, there is a concern for other species, including humans, and the environment,” said Professor Michelle Miller from University of Stellenbosch.

Currently Kruger National Park is running a programme to track, dart, clean trunks, wash lungs and take blood samples from elephants.

Since then, Buss and a team of experts have taken samples from over 30 elephants trying to establish if there are other elephants that could have the human strain TB.

The giant park said that the human strain TB on wild animals was under control.


Scientists and reseachers from Stellenbosch University perform a Bronchoelveolar lavage on the elephant that died at Kruger National park this week. Pictures: Bongani Sazy Siziba



Johanee Beer, manager for K9 unit, part of the anti-poaching crew at Kruger National Park.


This article is published in partnership with Zimbabwe Digital News and ZimJournalistsSA.

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