Evaluation of Portable Uric Acid/Glucometer and Health Assessment in Free-Ranging Cape Vultures (Gyps coprotheres) in South Africa
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2012

Eric Klaphake1, DVM, DACZM, DABVP (Avian); Kerri Wolter2; Michelle Brown3, LVT; Michele Walsh3, DVM; Jeanne Marie Pittman4, CVT; Jenyva Turner1, AAS

1Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Colorado Springs, CO, USA; 2VulPro, Boekenhoutkloof, South Africa; 3Biodiversity Research Institute, Gorham, ME, USA; 4Johannesburg Zoo, Johannesburg, South Africa


Thirty free-ranging cape vultures (Gyps coprotheres) were examined and sampled to establish standard values for species-specific morphometric measurements, complete blood cell counts (CBCC), blood chemistry values, genetic speciation, and mercury levels in feathers. All were juvenile or adult birds, of unconfirmed sex. No mercury levels suggesting toxicity exposure were noted. Blood chemistry values showed no significant variations compared to most avian species, while the CBCC did show a trend for a white blood cell count more elevated than most avian species, though that might have been attributable to overnight confinement in pen. Uric acid values using a human portable machine were compared to values from a commercial laboratory. Values from the portable unit were consistently lower than values from the commercial laboratory, varying from 14–222% lower. No uric acid values were considered elevated compared to other Gyps spp. values,1 so further testing for comparison of clinically relevant (elevated) values should be considered. With the known risk of renal failure from feeding on livestock carcasses of animals administered non-steroidal anti-inflammatory diclofenac well-documented in Asian Gyps vultures,2 validation of the use of an inexpensive, simple portable field unit for triaging uric acid levels in debilitated birds may be useful. Genetic testing was also performed that confirmed that the Cape Vulture is a distinct species from the white-backed vulture (Gyps africanus) and such information may help to avoid using hybrid individuals in reintroduction efforts.

Literature Cited

1.  Naidoo V., M. Diekmann, K. Wolter, G.E. Swan. 2008. Establishment of selected baseline blood chemistry and hematologic parameters in captive and wild-caught African white-backed vultures (Gyps africanus). J. Wildl. Dis. 44:649–54.

2.  Oaks J.L., M. Gilbert, M.Z.Virani, R.T. Watson, C.U. Meteyer, B.A. Rideout, H.L. Shivaprasad, S. Ahmed, M.J. Chaudhry, M. Arshad, S. Mahmood, A. Ali, A.A. Khan. 2004. Diclofenac residues as the cause of vulture population decline in Pakistan. Nature. 427:630–3.


Speaker Information
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Eric Klaphake, DVM, DACZM, DABVP (Avian)
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
Colorado Springs, CO, USA

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