Exposure of Spotted Hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) to Feline and Canine Viruses in the Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2002
Tara M. Harrison1, DVM, MPVM; Jonna A. Mazet2, DVM, MPVM, PhD; Kay E. Holekamp3, PhD; Edward Dubovi4, PhD; Anne L. Engh3, PhD; Keith Nelson3, DVM; Russell C. Van Horn3, MS; Linda Munson1, DVM, PhD
1Department of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology; 2Wildlife Health Center, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA, USA; 3Department of Zoology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA; 4Diagnostic Laboratory, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA


Hyenas are thought to be susceptible to many feline and canine viral diseases, but no comprehensive surveillance has been conducted. Antibodies to canine distemper virus (CDV), feline calicivirus (FCV), feline herpes virus 1 (FHV1), canine parvovirus/feline panleukopenia virus (CPV/FPLV), feline corona virus (FECV/FIPV), and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) have been detected in Serengeti lions indicating that these viruses are present in the ecosystem.1-4 Spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) are one of the most abundant predators in the Serengeti ecosystem and interact with a broad range of sympatric species. Furthermore, hyena habitat includes human settlements, where exposure to domestic dog and cat viruses is probable. In order to determine whether hyenas are susceptible to infection by canine viruses, a retrospective serosurvey was conducted to detect antibodies to CDV, FCV, FHV1, CPV/FPLV, FECV/FIPV, and FIV. Serum samples were collected from spotted hyenas in the Masai Mara National Reserve (MMNR) from a single clan (n=119) from 1993–2001 and from animals (n=121) in multiple clans from 1993–2001. Samples were tested at the Diagnostic Laboratory, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University. The associations of age, sex, social rank, and location within the MMNR to antibody status were evaluated. From 1993–2001 47% of the study hyenas had antibodies against CDV. Antibody titers to FCV, CPV/FPLV, FECV/FIPV, and FIV were present in 72%, 81%, 36%, and 16% of study hyenas, respectively. One hyena had antibodies against FHV1. Seroprevalence differed among age groups and by year sampled. These results indicate that hyenas in the MMNR were infected with CDV, FCV, FHV1, CPV/FPLV, FECV/FIPV, and FIV, or closely related viruses. Whether infection results in clinical disease in spotted hyenas cannot be determined from this study. This information may be useful in planning management and preventive medicine programs for the Serengeti ecosystem and captive hyenas.


This project was supported in part by the Wildlife Health Center, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA; and the John Ball Zoo Wildlife Conservation Fund, Grand Rapids, MI. Field research was supported by the National Science Foundation grant # IBN0113170. The authors would also like to thank the Office of the President of Kenya for permission to conduct this research. We also thank the Kenya Wildlife Service, the Narok County Council, and the Senior Warden of the Masai Mara National Reserve for their cooperation. We thank the following individuals for their excellent assistance in the field: E.E. Boydston, S.M. Cooper, S.M. Dloniak, M. Durham, P. Garrett, T.H. Harty, G. Ording, L. Smale, M. Szykman, S.A. Wahaj, and K. Weibel. We also thank K. Kapheim for her technical assistance.

Literature Cited

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2.  Kock R, Chalmers WS, Mwanzia J, Chillingworth C, Wambua J, Coleman PG, Baxendale W. Canine distemper antibodies in lions of the Masai Mara. Vet Rec. 1998;142:662–665.

3.  Packer C, Altizer S, Appel M, Brown E, Martenson J, O’Brien SJ, et al. Viruses of the Serengeti: patterns of infection and mortality in African lions. Animal Ecology. 1999;68:1161–1178.

4.  Roelke-Parker ME, Munson L, Packer C, Kock R, Cleaveland S, Carpenter M, et al. A canine distemper virus epidemic in Serengeti lions (Panthera leo). Nature. 1996;379:441–445.


Speaker Information
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Tara M. Harrison, DVM, MPVM
Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology
Wildlife Health Center, School of Veterinary Medicine
University of California
Davis, CA, USA

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