TB Killing Lions 'Like
Flies' - Entire Population At Risk
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) -- Lions at Kruger National Park are dying of tuberculosis so widespread and severe that the entire population is at risk, the Sunday Times reported.
Lions catch the incurable disease, to which they have no natural resistance, from infected buffalo, scientists said. It weakens and emaciates them, leading to death.
"Lions are dying like flies" and every one could be dead within 10 years, Dr. Johan Krige, deputy director of the Department of Agriculture, was quoted as saying Sunday.
Lions tested in the southern part of the 4,000-square-mile wild game park, located about four hours' drive from Johannesburg, showed an infection rate of 90 percent. Scientists said most of those would die.
There are several hundred lions in the park.
Park officials were considering isolating the lions by constructing a fence dividing the park in two -- or killing infected animals to try and protect healthy ones.
Tests show that herds of buffalo are infected with TB, which also has been diagnosed in cheetah, baboons and kudu.
A recent study of lions disclosed there are only about 12 left in an sprawling area of the park that was home to at least twice that many in 1995, and 67 in 1974. Scientists said the most likely cause of death was TB.
In neighboring parts of the park, 34 emaciated lions tested in 1995 showed that 29 were terminally ill with TB. In another area, 32 of 33 lions tested were infected.