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Journal of the South African Veterinary Association

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


WOODBURN, Daniel B. et al. Pathological findings in African buffaloes (Syncerus caffer) in South Africa. J. S. Afr. Vet. Assoc. [online]. 2021, vol.92, n.1, pp.1-11. ISSN 2224-9435.

The African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) is an iconic species of South African megafauna. As the farmed buffalo population expands, the potential impacts on population health and disease transmission warrant investigation. A retrospective study of skin biopsy and necropsy samples from 429 animals was performed to assess the spectrum of conditions seen in buffaloes in South Africa. Determination of the cause of death (or euthanasia) could not be made in 33.1% (136/411) of the necropsy cases submitted due to autolysis or the absence of significant lesions in the samples submitted. Infectious and parasitic diseases accounted for 53.5% (147/275) of adult fatal cases and non-infectious conditions accounted for 34.9% (96/275). Abortions and neonatal deaths made up 11.6% (32/275) of necropsy cases. Rift Valley fever, bovine viral diarrhoea, malignant catarrhal fever, tuberculosis, bacterial pneumonia, anaesthetic deaths, cachexia and hepatotoxic lesions were the most common causes of death. The range of infectious, parasitic and non-infectious diseases to which African buffaloes were susceptible was largely similar to diseases in domestic cattle which supports concerns regarding disease transmission between the two species. The similarity between diseases experienced in both species will assist wildlife veterinarians in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases in captive African buffaloes. The present study likely does not represent accurate disease prevalence data within the source population of buffaloes, and diseases such as anthrax, brucellosis and foot and mouth disease are under-represented in this study. Hepatic ductal plate abnormalities and haemorrhagic septicaemia have not, to our knowledge, been previously reported in African buffaloes.

Keywords : African buffalo; Syncerus caffer; disease; pathology; wildlife veterinarians.

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