KNP test elephant sample for human TB strain

KNP test elephant sample for human TB strain

Kruger National Park in partnership with Stellenbosch University is currently testing elephants for human TB strain after detecting it in one of the elephants in 2016.

According to Peter Buss, the Veterinary Manager at the KNP, the park found a dead elephant in 2016 and conducted a post mortem test which revealed that it died from human TB.

The results led to a research project on other elephants to establish the existence of the strain on other elephants, as well as determine the impact of the strain on the ecosystem.

“What we’ve done here is immobilise the elephant and take sample from its blood and lungs so we could analyse it to see whether or not the TB case of 2016 was a bigger problem than originally thought it was among the elephants,” he said.

KNP helicopter trying to drive an elephant to a safer place after immobilising it

The sample taken from the elephants and those taken from other animals in the park are to be used on future projects to analyse the health of the animals as well as monitor the ecosystem in the park. Meanwhile, Michel Miller, a Research Chair in Animal Tuberculosis (TB) at Stellenbosch University said the TB infection in elephants could take a long time before an animal shows some symptoms of contracting it.

“Elephants are like humans, sometimes it can take even a decade before the TB strain begin to show some signs of existence in them,” she said, adding that the biggest challenge the park faces when it comes to immobilising  animals for samples was the number of human resources needed just to immobilise one animal.

Michel Miller, a Research Chair in Animal Tuberculosis (TB) at Stellenbosch University taking interviews after immobilising an elephant in KNP

Other costs include financial expenses since the process require the use of a helicopter and a special medical kit to safely complete the process without killing the animal. In addition to that, immobilising one elephant is said to cost about R5000. The park has therefore said to have used plus or minus R200 000 so far from the 40 Elephants that it has immobilised to get a sample so far. This is why the park normally does this process on donated funds.