Biomedical Survey of Brown Hyenas (Hyaena brunnea) in Namibia
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2011
Dawn Zimmerman1, DVM, MS; Ingrid Wiesel2, PhD; Wm. Kirk Suedmeyer3, DVM, DACZM; Yennifer Hernandez4, BS

1Memphis Zoo, Memphis, TN, USA; 2Brown Hyena Research Project, Luderitz, Namibia; 3Kansas City Zoo, Kansas City, MO, USA; 4National Museum of Natural History, Montevideo, Uruguay


Brown hyenas (Hyaena brunnea) are the only large carnivorous predator of the southern Namib Desert, and are considered an indicator species for ecosystem health. Due to their small and declining global population size, and unknown disease status, a biomedical survey was initiated. Baseline biomedical parameters were established for brown hyenas in Sperrgebiet National Park in southern coastal Namibia. Serum samples from 30 hyenas collected from 1997 to 2010 were submitted for biochemistry profiles and antibody titers to canine distemper virus (CDV), canine parvovirus/feline panleukopenia virus (CPV/FPLV), rabies, Ehrlichia canis, and Neorickettsia risticii. A cross-sectional analysis was performed by sex (15 males, 13 females, 2 unknowns), age (21 adults, 6 subadults, 1 cub, 2 unknowns), and region (16 coastal, 11 urban, 3 inland) with additional analysis by year and season. All brown hyenas tested negative for rabies, E. canis, N. risticii, and CPV/FPLV. Thirteen (43%) were seropositive for CDV, of which antibody titers of adults (13/21 seropositive) were significantly higher than those of subadults (0/6 seropositive). Regionally, a cluster of CDV seropositive hyenas was identified around the coastal city of Luderitz where a CDV epidemic occurred in domestic dogs from 2002–2003; however, overall, there was no significant difference in seroprevalence between coastal versus inland hyenas nor between urban versus nonurban areas. Biochemistry values of brown hyenas appear similar to that established for the domestic cat and domestic dog.1 Preliminary results suggest that regional differences in diet may affect some biochemical values. Fecal examinations indicate a surprising low endoparasite incidence.


The authors would like to thank Oklahoma City Zoo for funding this project through their Conservation Action Now grant program. Gratitude is also extended to the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism; Namdeb; Corin Willers and Steve Appleton; Dr. Elizabeth Bunting, Dr. Edward Dubovi, and Dr. Belinda Thompson at Cornell University; Dr. Gary Anderson, Dr. Susan Moore, and Emily Mahan-Riggs at Kansas State University; and Dr. Cynthia Holland at ProtaTek.

Literature Cited

1.  Animal Health and Diagnostic Center. Chemistry reference intervals. College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University; Ithaca, NY; 2010.


Speaker Information
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Dawn Zimmerman, DVM, MS
Memphis Zoo
Memphis, TN, USA

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