Iron overload (hemosiderosis) occurs in a number of non-domestic species in captivity including birds, rhinoceroses, and primates.1,3 Among primates, lemurs are considered to be particularly susceptible, although the true incidence and severity of iron overload in captive lemurs is not known.2,4 The diagnosis of iron overload in lemurs is most often obtained on postmortem examination. While various iron parameters in blood are useful to screen humans and some domestic animals for iron overload, the reliability of these tests in lemurs has not been established. To assess the reliability of serum iron analytes as a measure of iron status in lemurs, serum iron, total iron binding capacity, ferritin, and transferrin saturation were measured in 33 lemurs of three species (ring-tailed lemurs [Lemur catta, n=11], black lemurs [Eulemur macaco, n=11], and red-ruffed lemurs [Varecia rubra, n=11]), and compared to iron content in liver tissue obtained by biopsy.
Mean values for liver iron content and serum iron analytes varied by species. Liver iron levels correlated significantly (p<0.05) with ferritin in red-ruffed lemurs and with serum iron, ferritin, and transferrin saturation in ring-tailed lemurs, but no correlations were demonstrated for black lemurs. This suggests that the validation of serum parameters as a measure of iron status in lemurs must be done for each species, and extrapolation from different lemur species or other primates is not appropriate.
1. Dorrenstein G., L. de Sa, S. Ratiarison, and A. Mete. 2000. Iron in the liver of animals in the zoo: A pathologist’s point of view. In: Niboer J., J.M. Hatt, W. Kaumanns, A. Beijnen, V. Ganslober, eds. Zoo Animal Nutrition. Furth: Finlander Verlag, Pp. 291–299.
2. Gonzales J., K. Benirschke, P. Saltman, J. Roberts, and P.T. Robinson. 1984. Hemosiderosis in lemurs. Zoo Biol. 3: 255–265.
3. Lowenstine L.J. and L. Munson. 1999. Avian medicine: Iron overload in the animal kingdom. In: Fowler M.E., R.E. Miller, eds. Zoo and Wild Animal Medicine; Current Therapy 4. W.B. Saunders Co., Philadelphia, PA, Pp 260–268.
4. Spelman L.H., K.G. Osborn, and M.P. Anderson. 1989. Pathogenesis of hemosiderosis in lemurs: Role of dietary iron, tannin, and ascorbic acid. Zoo Biol. 8: 239–251.