African Wildlife Databases Benefit Conservation Efforts
CHAMPAIGN, Illinois, October 1, 2001 (ENS) - The health and welfare of African lions, leopards and cheetahs are coming into focus - in Illinois. What is being learned of the Zoological Pathology Program at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine will help with the management of the threatened big cats in Africa, as well as those in zoos throughout the world.
"The government of Namibia has genuine concerns about how to best manage its animals," said scientist Michael Kinsel of the Zoological Pathology Program. "These concerns are very important for the international wildlife community."
Two years ago, the researchers reported that all of Africa's lions south of the equator are of the same sub-species, said Michael Briggs of the Chicago Zoological Society at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, Illinois.
"We found regional differences, displayed in their adaptation to their environment, but it was clear from a genetic standpoint that it wouldn't hurt to move animals from one place to another," he said. Various samples - including tissue, blood, serum, parasites and sperm - have been studied at the zoo and at the University of Illinois' Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Urbana. The samples are archived at the zoo.
Now Kinsel and Briggs are working with the Namibian Carnivore Monitoring Program, a collection of government and non-government agencies and interested individuals, to obtain the same information for leopards and cheetahs.
Applying their approach to cheetahs is important, the scientists said. Namibia is home to 70 percent of the world's cheetah population.
"If we lose Namibia's population, we will have essentially lost the cheetah, because populations elsewhere are smaller and isolated," said Kinsel, who travels with Briggs to Namibia a couple of times a year for fieldwork and to train local workers to collect samples and perform necropsies.
"If we can see the differences between free ranging and captive animals, we can enhance management in both habitats," Kinsel said.