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Parkville, Australia

Fanson K.V.,Wildlife Reproductive Center | Fanson K.V.,Deakin University | Lynch M.,Melbourne Zoo | Vogelnest L.,Taronga Zoo | And 2 more authors.
European Journal of Wildlife Research | Year: 2013

Understanding how elephants respond to potentially stressful events, such as relocation, is important for making informed management decisions. This study followed the relocation of eight Asian elephants from the Cocos (Keeling) Islands to mainland Australia. The first goal of this study was to examine patterns of adrenocortical activity as reflected in three different substrates: serum, urine, and feces. We found that the three substrates yielded very different signals of adrenocortical activity. Fecal glucocorticoid metabolites (FGM) increased as predicted post-transport, but urinary glucocorticoid metabolites (UGM) were actually lower following transport. Serum cortisol levels did not change significantly. We suggest that the differences in FGM and UGM may reflect changes in steroid biosynthesis, resulting in different primary glucocorticoids being produced at different stages of the stress response. Additional studies are needed to more thoroughly understand the signals of adrenocortical activity yielded by different substrates. The second goal was to examine individual variation in patterns of adrenal response. There was a positive correlation between baseline FGM value and duration of post-transfer increase in FGM concentration. Furthermore, an individual's adrenocortical response to relocation was correlated with behavioral traits of elephants. Elephants that were described by keepers as being "curious" exhibited a more prolonged increase in FGM post-transfer, and "reclusive" elephants had a greater increase in FGM values. Future research should investigate the importance of these personality types for the management and welfare of elephants. © 2013 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.

Scheelings T.F.,Australian Wildlife Health Center | Scheelings T.F.,University of Melbourne | Jessop T.S.,Melbourne Zoo | Jessop T.S.,University of Melbourne
Australian Veterinary Journal | Year: 2011

Objective The aims of this study were to determine baseline reference intervals for haematological and serum biochemical parameters in lace monitors, and to examine whether such values were influenced by capture method, expected differences in habitat food resource availability and a lizard's body size and body condition. Methods Thirty-three wild Victorian lace monitors (Varanus varius) of unknown age and sex were captured by noose pole or aluminium box trap from Cape Conran in East Gippsland, Victoria, Australia. Results No statistical differences between the two capture methods were noted for haematology. There was a significant difference in the serum glucose concentrations between the two methods of capture (higher concentration in box-trapped animals) because of a physiological response to capture stress. Habitat food quality did not appear to influence haematology or serum biochemistry. The packed cell volume (PCV) for the lace monitors was 0.29-0.43L/L. Lymphocytes were identified as the most common leucocyte. The haemoprotozoan parasite, Haemogregarinavaranicola, was found in all 33 blood samples. No correlation could be made between parasite burden and PCV, serum globulins or serum proteins, but animals in poor body condition were more likely to harbour large numbers of parasites. Conclusion The results of this study may be used as a basis for evaluating health in lace monitors. © 2011 The Authors. Australian Veterinary Journal © 2011 Australian Veterinary Association.

Lynch M.,Melbourne Zoo | Lynch M.,Deakin University | Kirkwood R.,Phillip Island Nature Parks | Duignan P.,University of Melbourne | Arnould J.P.Y.,Deakin University
Journal of Mammalogy | Year: 2011

Endothermic mammals in cold environments have a range of adaptations enabling them to maintain a constant core body temperature. Of critical importance to many is a thick hair coat that retains air and so acts as a barrier to minimize heat exchange between the skin and ambient environment. Disruption to the pelage can increase costs of maintaining body temperature and compromise survival of the individual. Fur seals rely on a pelage of dense, dry underfur protected by guard hairs for insulation in the aquatic environment. Since 1989 a potentially serious alopecia (hair loss) syndrome has been recognized in Australian fur seals. Between September 2007 and February 2010 we investigated the prevalence and potential impacts of the condition. The syndrome manifests as bilaterally symmetrical alopecia, which occurs predominantly in juveniles and has a strong sex bias (51 of 55 juveniles captured for examination were female). It also occurs in adult females but has never been seen on postpubescent males. Prevalence of alopecia was highest at the large Lady Julia Percy Island colony (approximately 30,000 seals) in northwestern Bass Strait where it has a distinct seasonal pattern of prevalence, peaking in spring and summer with up to 50% of juvenile females affected. Thermal images indicated that alopecic and nonalopecic areas of the dorsal thorax had a mean difference of 6.6°C, and affected animals were in significantly (P < 0.001) poorer body condition than unaffected animals. © 2011 American Society of Mammalogists.

O'Brien C.R.,University of Melbourne | Handasyde K.A.,University of Melbourne | Hibble J.,Newhaven Veterinary Clinic | Lavender C.J.,Collaborating Center for Mycobacterium Ulcerans Western Pacific Region | And 8 more authors.
PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases | Year: 2014

Background:Buruli ulcer (BU) is a skin disease caused by Mycobacterium ulcerans, with endemicity predominantly in sub-Saharan Africa and south-eastern Australia. The mode of transmission and the environmental reservoir(s) of the bacterium and remain elusive. Real-time PCR investigations have detected M. ulcerans DNA in a variety of Australian environmental samples, including the faeces of native possums with and without clinical evidence of infection. This report seeks to expand on previously published findings by the authors' investigative group with regards to clinical and subclinical disease in selected wild possum species in BU-endemic areas of Victoria, Australia.Methodology/Principal Findings:Twenty-seven clinical cases of M. ulcerans infection in free-ranging possums from southeastern Australia were identified retrospectively and prospectively between 1998-2011. Common ringtail possums (Pseudocheirus peregrinus), a common brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) and a mountain brushtail possum (Trichosurus cunninghami) were included in the clinically affected cohort. Most clinically apparent cases were adults with solitary or multiple ulcerative cutaneous lesions, generally confined to the face, limbs and/or tail. The disease was minor and self-limiting in the case of both Trichosurus spp. possums. In contrast, many of the common ringtail possums had cutaneous disease involving disparate anatomical sites, and in four cases there was evidence of systemic disease at post mortem examination. Where tested using real-time PCR targeted at IS2404, animals typically had significant levels of M. ulcerans DNA throughout the gut and/or faeces. A further 12 possums without cutaneous lesions were found to have PCR-positive gut contents and/or faeces (subclinical cases), and in one of these the organism was cultured from liver tissue. Comparisons were made between clinically and subclinically affected possums, and 61 PCR-negative, non-affected individuals, with regards to disease category and the categorical variables of species (common ringtail possums v others) and sex. Animals with clinical lesions were significantly more likely to be male common ringtail possums.Conclusions/Significance:There is significant disease burden in common ringtail possums (especially males) in some areas of Victoria endemic for M. ulcerans disease. The natural history of the disease generally remains unknown, however it appears that some mildly affected common brushtail and mountain brushtail possums can spontaneously overcome the infection, whereas some severely affected animals, especially common ringtail possums, may become systemically, and potentially fatally affected. Subclinical gut carriage of M. ulcerans DNA in possums is quite common and in some common brushtail and mountain brushtail possums this is transient. Further work is required to determine whether M. ulcerans infection poses a potential threat to possum populations, and whether these animals are acting as environmental reservoirs in certain geographical areas. © 2014 O'Brien et al.

Lynch M.,Melbourne Zoo | Lynch M.,Deakin University | Nielsen O.,Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Center | Duigna P.J.,University of Melbourne | And 3 more authors.
Journal of Wildlife Diseases | Year: 2011

The introduction of pathogens into populations of animals with no previous exposure to them and, therefore, no immunologic protection, can result in epizootics. Predicting the susceptibility of populations to infectious diseases is crucial for their conservation and management. Australian fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus) have a relatively small population size, a restricted range, and form dense aggregations. These factors make this species vulnerable to epizootics of infectious diseases that spread by direct animal-to-animal contact. Blood samples were collected from 125 adult female Australian fur seals between 2007 and 2009and tested for exposure to selected pathogens. The testing protocol was based on pathogens important to marine mammal health or those significant to public and livestock health. No antibodies were detected to morbilli viruses, influenza A viruses, six Leptospira serovars, Mycobacterium tuberculosis-complex species, or Toxoplasma gondii. Overall antibody prevalenceto an unidentified Brucella sp. was 57%but varied significantly (P,0.02) between 2007 (74%) and2008 (53%). The findings indicate Brucella infection may be enzootic in the Australian fur seal population. Further investigations are required to isolate the bacteria and establish if infection results in morbidity and mortality. Australian fur seals remain vulnerable to the threat of introduced disease and should be managed and monitored accordingly. © Wildlife Disease Association 2011.

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