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Journal of the South African Veterinary Association

On-line version ISSN 2224-9435
Print version ISSN 1019-9128

Abstract

BRAUD, Cindy; MITCHELL, Emily P.; VAN DER MERWE, Vincent  and  TORDIFFE, Adrian S.W.. A veterinary survey of factors associated with capture-related mortalities in cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus). J. S. Afr. Vet. Assoc. [online]. 2019, vol.90, n.1, pp.1-7. ISSN 2224-9435.  http://dx.doi.org/10.4102/jsava.v90i0.1723.

The objective of this study was to gain better insight into factors associated with the capture-related mortality rate in cheetahs. A link to an online questionnaire was sent to zoo and wildlife veterinarians through the Species Survival Plan Programme and European Endangered Species Programme coordinators and via the 'Wildlife VetNet' Google group forum. The questionnaire consisted of 50 questions relating to the veterinarians' country of residence and experience, the medicine combinations used, standard monitoring procedures, capture-related complications and mortalities experienced in this species under different capture conditions. In addition, necropsy data from the national wildlife disease database of the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa were examined for cases where anaesthetic death was listed as the cause of death in cheetahs. A total of 75 veterinarians completed the survey, with 38 from African countries and a combined total of 37 from Europe, the United States (US) and Asia. Of these, 24% (n = 18/75) had experienced at least one capture-associated cheetah mortality, with almost all of the fatalities (29/30) reported by veterinarians working in Africa. A lack of anaesthetic monitoring and the absence of supplemental oxygen were shown to be significant risk factors for mortality. Hyperthermia, likely to be associated with capture stress, was the most common reported complication (35%). The results suggest that free-ranging rather than habituated captive cheetahs are particularly at risk of dying during immobilisation and transport. The capture-related fatalities in this species do not appear to be associated with either the veterinarian's level of clinical experience or the immobilisation agents used.

Keywords : Acinonyx jubatus; cheetahs; capture; immobilisation; survey; mortalities.

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