Clinic for Zoo Animals

Zürich, Switzerland

Clinic for Zoo Animals

Zürich, Switzerland
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News Article | May 3, 2017

Many herpesviruses infect only a few animal species. Elephants also have their own spectrum of herpesviruses, which can cause infections that end in death. Asian elephants are carriers of virus types1, 4 and 5, while African elephants carry types 2, 3 and 6. Type 1 is particularly dangerous for young Asian elephants and has led to numerous deaths in the wild and in zoos worldwide. In Switzerland as well, three animals have died of "Elephant Herpes" in the last 30 years. How the elephants transmit the disease, however, and how they become infected, has been largely unknown until now. For some time, researchers have been able to use trunkwash samples to find out whether elephants are affected by the virus and whether they are shedding it. "Elephants can be trained to have their trunks flushed with a physiologic salt solution," Jean-Michel Hatt, director of the Clinic for Zoo Animals, Exotic Pets and Wildlife at UZH, explains. "In the process, they lift their trunks briefly so that the liquid can flow to the back as far as possible and then they drain it into a bucket." The samples gained in this manner were tested for herpesviruses at the UZH Institute for Virology. "The elephants we examined can be divided into ones that do not shed the virus or only seldom shed it and ones that shed it frequently," says virologist Mathias Ackermann. "The latter are so-called super-shedders which cause the majority of the infections." Super-shedders are known for causing other viral infections among both humans and animals. They themselves are immune to the disease and pass on this immunity to their offspring. The situation becomes dangerous when a super-shedder comes into contact with the juveniles of non-shedders. An elephant cow which shed the virus most frequently during the study, for example, was in very close contact with all three elephant calves that died of the virus in Switzerland. All calves carried virus sub-type 1A responsible for the deaths, which indicates a shared source of infection. The dead animals were the offspring of non-shedders, while the progeny of the super-shedder were not affected. "Elephant herpes is not just a zoo disease," Mathias Ackermann says. The herpesviruses of elephants broke off from other herpesviruses at the same time elephants split from other mammals. Since then, the Asian and African virus types have developed even further apart from each other. The individual types vary in virulence, but both are wide spread in their countries of origin. The disease also occurs in the wild in Asia and in Africa. The researchers from Zurich are convinced: "It is important to test elephants in zoos regularly for herpes." The placement of animals can then be planned so that elephant calves are at less risk. By testing blood for the virus, a breakout of the disease among juveniles can be determined much earlier, extending the treatment period by up to ten days. Ackermann M, Hatt J-M, Schetle N, Steinmetz HP: Identification of Shedders of Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesviruses Among Asian Elephants (Elephas maximus) in Switzerland. May 3, 2017. PLoS One. DOI: pone.0176891

Objectives: Fecal particle size (FPS) as quantified by wet sieving analysis is a measure of chewing efficiency relevant for the understanding of physiological adaptations and constraints in herbivores. FPS has not been investigated systematically in frugivores, and important methodological problems remain. In particular, food items that are not chewed may skew estimates of FPS. We address such methodological issues and also assess the influence of diet type and age on FPS in wild chimpanzees. Materials and Methods: About 130 fecal samples of 38 individual chimpanzees (aged from 1.3 to ∼55 years) from the Kanyawara community of Kibale National Park (Uganda) were collected during three fruit seasons and analyzed using standardized wet sieves (pores from 16 to 0.025 mm). The effects of using different sieve series and excluding large seeds were investigated. We also assessed the relationship between FPS and sex, age, and fruit season. Results: The treatment of seeds during the sieving process had a large influence on the results. FPS was not influenced by chimpanzee sex or age, but was smaller during a fig season (0.88±0.31 mm) than during two drupe-fruit seasons (1.68±0.37 mm) (0.025-4 mm sieves, excluding seeds). Discussion: The absence of an age effect on FPS suggests that dental senescence might be less critical in chimpanzees, or in frugivores in general, than in folivorous herbivores. To increase the value of FPS studies for understanding frugivore and hominoid dietary evolution we propose modifications to prior herbivore protocols. © 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Steuer P.,University of Bonn | Clauss M.,Clinic for Zoo Animals | Sudekum K.-H.,University of Bonn | Hatt J.-M.,Clinic for Zoo Animals | And 6 more authors.
Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology - A Molecular and Integrative Physiology | Year: 2010

Rhinoceroses represent the largest extant herbivores with extensive dietary specialization for plant groups like browse (black rhino Diceros bicornis) or grass (white rhino Ceratotherium simum). However, it is not clear to what extent such diet selection patterns are reflected in adaptations of digestive physiology of the respective feeding types. In this study, feeding trials with four black and five white rhinos were conducted in four zoos. The animals had ad libitum access to the same batch of grass hay (second cut; neutral detergent fiber (NDF) 63% dry matter (DM), crude protein 10.2% DM). Total intake, fecal N content, in vitro digestibility of NDF residues of feces, fecal particle size and mean retention time (MRT) of particles (Cr-mordanted fiber; 1-2 mm) and fluid (Co-EDTA) were quantified. The average daily DM intake was 70 ± 12 g/kg BW0.75 for white and 73 ± 10 g/kg BW0.75 for black rhinos. In the in vitro fermentation test fecal NDF residues of black rhinos resulted in higher gas productions at fermentation times of 12 to 24 h, indicating that white rhinos have a superior capacity to digest NDF. Average MRT for fluids and particles was 28 ± 4 h and 43 ± 5 h in white and 34 ± 4 h and 39 ± 4 h in black rhinos. The selectivity factor (SF = MRTparticle / MRTfluid) was higher for white (1.5 ± 0.2) than for black rhinos (1.2 ± 0.1) (p = 0.016). In a comparison of 12 ruminant and 3 rhino species, SF was correlated to percentage of grass in diet (R = 0.75). Mean fecal particle size was higher in white (9.1 ± 1.94 mm) than in black rhinos (6.1 ± 0.79 mm) (p = 0.016). The results demonstrate differences between white and black rhinos in terms of retention times and fiber digestibility. The more selective retention of particles by the white rhino corresponds with the higher digestion of fiber measured indirectly. Furthermore there is indication for a general pattern of high SF in grazing ruminants and rhinos. The difference in fecal particle size between both rhino species might be due to the considerable difference in body weight. © 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Lange C.E.,Clinic for Small Animal Internal Medicine | Lange C.E.,Institute of Virology | Favrot C.,Clinic for Small Animal Internal Medicine | Ackermann M.,Institute of Virology | And 4 more authors.
Virology Journal | Year: 2011

Papillomaviruses (PVs) are associated with the development of neoplasias and have been found in several different species, most of them in humans and other mammals. We identified, cloned and sequenced PV DNA from pigmented papilloma-like lesions of a diamond python (Morelia spilota spilota). This represents the first complete PV genome discovered in a Squamata host (MsPV1). It consists of 7048 nt and contains the characteristic open reading (ORF) frames E6, E7, E1, E2, L1 and L2. The L1 ORF sequence showed the highest percentage of sequence identities to human PV5 (57.9%) and Caribbean manatee (Trichechus manatus) PV1 (55.4%), thus, establishing a new clade. According to phylogenetic analysis, the MsPV1 genome clusters with PVs of mammalian rather than sauropsid hosts. © 2011 Lange et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

Wenger S.,Clinic for Zoo Animals | Gull J.,Clinic for Zoo Animals | Glaus T.,Clinic for Small Animals | Blumer S.,University of Zürich | And 4 more authors.
Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine | Year: 2010

A 20-mo-old, female, 9-kg European beaver (Castor fiber) presented with apathy, reduced appetite of 3-day duration and a grade 5/6 systolic heart murmur. Thoracic radiographs revealed a diffuse broncho-interstitial pattern suspicious for bronchopneumonia. The echocardiographic findings of a hypertrophied right ventricle, ventricular septal defect with overriding aorta, and infundibular pulmonic stenosis were consistent with Fallot's tetralogy. Even though the bronchopneumonia rather than the congenital cardiac defect was considered of primary importance for the presenting clinical signs, the latter was relevant for the decision not to continue any medical treatment. Both disease processes were confirmed on necropsy. © 2010 American Association of Zoo Veterinarians.

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