The Kruger National Park's Veterinary Wildlife Service Department started with the final stage of a Bovine Tuberculosis (BTB) research project, which started in 2008 to determine the effect of the disease on free ranging buffalos. During this stage, which is taking place until mid August, about 125 to 150 of the 200 sampled buffalos will be euthanized and complete post mortems will be conducted.
The project involved the collaring and monitoring of 200 buffalos, mostly in the Lower Sabie and Crocodile Bridge areas.
According to one of the team leaders for the project, Dr Anna Jolles, from the Oregon State University in the United States of America, the focus is on how gut worms may affect bovine tuberculosis (BTB) in buffalo populations.
The study will also look at the other main endemic diseases of buffalo - foot-and-mouth disease, rift valley fever and brucellosis - putting the team's findings in context with the full complement of parasites affecting the buffalo.
BTB is an alien disease which entered the park as result of buffalo contact with BTB infected livestock in the mid 1950's outside the park and it poses a big threat to conservation of biodiversity.
The large scale field experiment was initiated in 2008. All the animals were marked individually and fitted with radio-collars to facilitate recapturing every six months. Only cows older than two years were included in the study. During every capture, blood and dung were taken to determine the BTB and worm infection status.
During the second phase of the study, only animals older than 10 years were monitored.
In this process, the researchers will be able to determine the status and the progression of the disease.