The Nepal Elephant Healthcare and Tuberculosis (TB) Surveillance Program was initiated by Elephant Care International in 2007 following the first comprehensive TB testing of Asian elephants in 2006. Previous reports have described the challenges that TB presents to wildlife, humans, and domestic livestock in Nepal1-3 and a recent report has demonstrated the risk of transmission to the wild.4
The program is based near Chitwan National Park where a field office and lab are staffed by a full-time veterinarian. Program goals are to 1) mitigate transmission of TB to wild elephants, rhinos and other ungulates by controlling TB at the captive-wild interface, 2) ensure the health of government elephants used for anti-poaching patrols, rhino censuses, and other conservation purposes, 3) safeguard tourism that supports the national parks, 4) build wildlife veterinary capacity, 5) encourage the development of elephant TB control programs other Asian elephant range countries, and 6) advance our knowledge of TB in elephants.
Ninety-three percent of the captive population has been tested using the Elephant TB Stat-Pak® and/or DPP® Vet TB™ assays.a Over 20 elephants have been treated prophylactically or therapeutically for TB based on serology results, culture, and/or exposure history.
The Program has facilitated multiple research projects, involving students and investigators from Tufts University, Michigan State University, Murdoch University, and the Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science (Nepal).
In 2010 the Ministry of Forestry approved the Elephant Tuberculosis Control and Management Action Plan (2011-2015), the first such plan in Asia. The plan is on-line at www.elephantcare.org.
a. Chembio Diagnostic Systems, Inc, Medford, NY, USA.
The authors would like to acknowledge the support of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation of the Government of Nepal, Dr. I.P. Dhakal of the Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science for working with us to establish a fellowship for the first TB Program veterinarian, Dr. Shantraj Jnawali for help in transitioning the TB Program to the National Trust for Nature Conservation, Dr. Christy Williams of WWF-Nepal for construction of a segregation site and mahout TB testing, and Konstantin Lyashchenko of Chembio Diagnostics Systems Inc.a for technical support.
We greatly acknowledge the financial support of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Asian Elephant Conservation Fund (Awards 98201-8-G571, 96200-9-G222, and 96200-0-G143), the Mazuri Fund, the Walter J. Ernst Memorial Fund, the Abraham Foundation, Buttonwood Park Zoo, Columbus Zoo, Oklahoma City Zoo, Phoenix Zoo, Busch Gardens Tamps, the Humane Society of the United States, and numerous private donors.
1. Mikota, S.K., G. Kaufman, I.P. Dhakal, and B.D. Pandey. 2009. Tuberculosis in Nepal: elephants, humans, livestock, and wildlife. Proc. Am. Assoc. Zoo Vet. Annual. Conf. 3–4.
2. Mikota, S.K., M. Miller, G. Dumonceaux, K. Giri, K. Gairhe, K. Hamilton, S. Paudel, K. Lyashchenko, R.S. Larsen, J. Payeur, R. Waters, M.D. Salman, and G. Kaufman, G. 2007. Comparison of four serologic assays and culture to determine tuberculosis infection in captive elephants in Nepal. Proc. Am. Assoc. Zoo Vet., Am. Assoc. Wildlife Vet, Am. Zoo and Aquarium Assoc. Nutr Adv Group Joint Conf. 71–72.
3. Mikota, S.K., M. Miller, G. Dumonceaux, K. Giri, K. Gairhe, K. Hamilton, S. Paudel, and B. Vincent. 2006. Elephant tuberculosis diagnosis: implications for elephant management in Asian range countries. Proc. Am. Assoc. Zoo Vet. Annual. Conf. 142–143.
. Obanda, V., J. Poghon, M. Yongo, I. Mulei, M. Ngotho, K. Waititu, J. Makumi, F. Gakuya, P. Omondi, R.C. Soriguer, and S. Alasaad. 2013. First report of fatal tuberculosis in a wild African elephant with past human-wildlife contact. Epidemiol. Infect. 1–5.