Kudu Rabies In Namibia

Discussion in 'Articles' started by Kowas Hunting Safaris, May 7, 2018.

  1. Kowas Hunting Safaris

    Kowas Hunting Safaris SPONSOR Since 2017 AH Fanatic

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    Just a quick note on the Kudu rabies and maybe just sharing my opinion and thoughts as I am in Namibia.

    First of all; yes, the rabies is bad and it hits about once every four years, give or take a year. It usually hits most of Namibia, BUT the higher up/northern areas does not get hit that bad. Like the caprivi/kavango areas do not get any rabies that I know of.

    We are located South-East of Windhoek, in the Dordabis Area, which is very well known for our high kudu populations, as well as for our good kudu trophy quality. We at Kowas Hunting Safaris hunt on roughly 400 000 acres of Free-Ranging area, mostly consisting of cattle farms with a lot of endemic wildlife species occurring in the area, like Kudu, Oryx, Springbuck, Red Hartebeest and Warthog. I will give you my opinion, and take it for what it is... It does not mean I am right or wrong, it's just an opinion since I am no scientist, BUT I spend A LOT of time out in the bush - and that's where my conclusions and opinions stem from.


    The picture below was taken in September 2014, which is an example of the kudu bull skulls we picked up just on one of the properties we hunt on...

    [​IMG]
    That is just the horns we picked up.... There must be a lot more lying around!


    At that point in time, September 2014, I was worried. I really thought we will not be able to still harvest big kudu bulls with our clients for much longer. It felt like we at least lost about 40-50% of our kudu population. A lot of young bulls were dying, cows and even older bulls. It was heart breaking to say the least!

    Well, the 2015 season skipped along and we managed to still harvest top class kudu bulls throughout the year. It was difficult, but we got every client a mature, good representative trophy kudu bull. Now, just to give you an idea, since we started our hunting operation in 1998, we harvest roughly 15-25 trophy Kudu bulls per year. Throughout these years we managed to obtain a good average of 52" per year, with some bulls hitting the 60" mark every year. Last year, 2017, we averaged 54"'s with our kudu bulls and we harvested just under 20 kudu bulls last year.

    Now, looking back.... Was it worth it to be that worried after the 2014 rabies epidemic???

    I guess we should be worried, since we are loosing quite a few really good kudu bulls with the rabies outbreaks, BUT the populations return after about 2-3 years. It's a natural cycle in Namibia. It's part of nature.

    Some OPINIONS that I have regarding the RABIES outbreak among Kudu in Namibia:
    - The rabies outbreak usually runs consistently with over population of Kudu in our area. After a rabies outbreak, like that of 2014, the kudu populations return back to normal within 2-3 years. Usually, then another rabies outbreak starts yet again...

    - Many people will not agree with me on the opinion stated above. The usual comment is; "but when we drive around looking for kudu, we do not see any kudu at all". It's plain and simple. The bush encroachment in our area is getting worse and worse every year, hence, making it easier for kudu to hide. It's not that easy to just drive around and see kudu everywhere like you would see Oryx and Springbuck standing in open savannahs. Kudu is and will remain "the grey ghost" forever. Their coats and habitat they live in, make them the best in the business at the "hide and seek" game. When I hunt, we get up on hills and sit for hours and glass the mountain sides for kudu... We will be sitting and glassing for hours. Not seeing any kudu. Then all of a sudden, you start picking them out one by one. The bulls specifically play the best "hide and seek" game, they do not show themselves very easily.

    - When reading up on studies done on kudu, you will find the average herd size will differ from area to area. In our area, the average herd size is between 4-6 mature females, with their offspring, and only in May to June there will be a mature bull with the female herds. Just before a rabies outbreak starts, you will find herds of kudu ranging from 9-12 females, with their offspring in a group. It clearly shows overpopulation. Kudu herds are not meant to be large by any means like that of Oryx or Springbuck herds.

    - An overpopulation in kudu numbers may have the following effects: Trees and bushes secrete tannins (a yellowish or brownish bitter-tasting organic substance present in some galls, barks, and other plant tissues, consisting of derivatives of gallic acid) which serve to deter the browser (kudu is a browser), and these same tannins, dispersed by the wind, are then senses by other trees, triggering them to start secreting their own tannins. This is a vegetative defence mechanism and it prevents browsers, mostly kudu, from taking too much foliage from a single tree, or browsing too extensively in an isolated section of bush. Too much tannin intake can be very harmful to kudu. Depending on the type of tannin dominating (Condensed Tannins or Hydrolyzable Tannins), one can either find emaciated weak animals dying from protein malnutrition, or animals in good condition dying acutely. This fact is borne out by field observation but it has not been proven to such an extent that it satisfies rigorous scientific scrutiny. Several studies have proven that, giraffe, greater kudu, eland, duiker, impala and nyala do not posses anyrumen microbes that can digest or inactivate tannins. This fact is borne out by field observation but it has not been proven to such an extent that it satisfies rigorous scientific scrutiny.

    - Whether the "Rabies" outbreak is really rabies or Tannin-poisoning, is still a debatable fact. Much the same happened some years ago when Namibian researchers suspected rabies is now spread laterally through the kudu population without the assistance of a so-called vector, i.e. an infected agent, usually a mongoose, honey badger or jackal, that transfers the virus from one kudu to another.

    - Whether it really is rabies or tannin poisoning, I am of the opinion that young kudu bulls and kudu cows are hit the hardest, since they are still socially very active and prone to being infected by a rabies kudu through saliva in drinking water and on leaves, and when one animal grooms another OR that kudu traveling in herds a more prone to getting tannin poisoning since there is a lot more tannin released by trees and bushes when a herd is feeding in a specific area. Older, mature kudu bulls that has had their time with the females like the peace and quite areas, and they are not socially very active anymore, and they are not so prone in getting rabies or tannin poisoning.

    - I also feel that some kudu are immune to rabies and their immune systems are getting stronger and stronger each time an outbreak occurs. And if it is tannin poisoning, research in moose from North America and Scandinavia has proven that even in the same species, there is a marked difference in the binding of tannins in saliva. This difference was dependent on the species of trees browsed on. Maybe it is the same with kudu?

    That is just my opinions, and take it for what it is....

    I truly believe that the kudu hunting in Namibia is not over, and we will still have the opportunity to hunt and harvest top class, old blue-necked kudu bulls long into the future...

    Happy Hunting!

    My best,
    Jacques
     

  2. Ridgewalker

    Ridgewalker AH ENABLER LIFETIME BRONZE BENEFACTOR AH Legend

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    Thank you. Very good write-up and analysis. I like your positive summation.
     

  3. Jfet

    Jfet AH Fanatic

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    Jacques,

    Great timing my friend! You have just provided my introduction to the species adaptation review that I am doing today in Biology class. (y)
     

  4. CAustin

    CAustin AH ENABLER BRONZE SUPPORTER AH Ambassador

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    Thank you for sharing.
     

  5. Hunting Sailor

    Hunting Sailor SILVER SUPPORTER AH Enthusiast

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    Thanks for the information and views of the situation. Much appreciated.

    //Gus
     

  6. Fritz2611

    Fritz2611 AH Member

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    Thank you for the Information you shared I've seen som Kudu in Oct. 2017 When I was in Namiba infected by Rabies that was a sad sight.
     
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  7. Travis2282

    Travis2282 AH Veteran

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    Just got me thinking... does anyone chance eating kudu meat?
     

  8. Hunter101

    Hunter101 AH Senior Member

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    I sure hope they rebound. I seen plenty on my last trip to Namibia 10 years ago. Good read at least you know what is causing the decline not like the mule deer out west where theirs many factors
     

  9. sestoppelman

    sestoppelman AH ENABLER AH Legend

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    We saw evidence of this in Namibia last year ourselves, hunting with Eland Pro. My boy shot a staggering zombie on our first day and we didn't see any shootable bulls, but lots of remains of dead kudu lying about. Sad.
     

  10. Travis2282

    Travis2282 AH Veteran

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    I wonder how it’s looking this year in Namibia?
     

  11. Wheels

    Wheels AH ENABLER AH Legend

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    Very interesting article Jacques. Thanks for sharing your educated opinion.
     

  12. BenKK

    BenKK AH Fanatic

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    Very informative and interesting, thanks.
     

  13. PARA45

    PARA45 AH Fanatic

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    Interesting article. Mother Nature has her way of thinning the heard when necessary.
     

  14. Ragman

    Ragman AH Fanatic

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    My only hunt in Africa so far was Namibia in 2014. I had not heard of the rabies outbreak in kudu until I got there. I saw kudu cows and calves pretty much every day, but only 2 bulls in 10 days of hunting with no shot opportunities. Saw a few carcasses of animals that had died though. That was my priority animal for the trip and to not get a chance at one was very disappointing. Hope the situation has improved since then.
     

  15. Powdermaker

    Powdermaker AH Senior Member

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    Thank You for your very interesting observations. There have been similar studies in North America, on Snowshoe Hare populations. As population increases, over browsing, causes plant nutrition to decrease, resulting in poor body condition and compromised immune system.
    Do Namibian people normally get vaccinated for rabies? When my wife worked as a veterinarian, here in Canada, it was mandatory for Vets and animal health technicians. Do people traveling to Namibia, normally get vaccinated for rabies? I am taking my family on a "hunting holiday" in 2019 and I intend to have us all vaccinated. An un-necessary pre-caution?
     

  16. cagkt3

    cagkt3 PLATINUM SUPPORTER AH Elite

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    Very interesting read, thanks!
     

  17. dory

    dory AH Fanatic

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    Thank you my friend , enjoyed your thoughts .
     

  18. Countrylife

    Countrylife AH Senior Member

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    This was taken April 19, 2018 in Namibia, SE of Windhoek. There were not a lot, but there were enough to hunt. I got a nice one, but not the one in this picture, so there's still at least one out there.

    After posting this picture and seeing how it shows up on the forum, i'll have to see if I can get the hi-res photo and upload that. I will always be thankful for the kudu I got even though it is well below the 60" some have reported. Mine comes in around 49"

    IMG_4738.jpg
     
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  19. Countrylife

    Countrylife AH Senior Member

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    IMG_4738.JPG Ok, here's the hi-res picture from post #18
     

  20. BenKK

    BenKK AH Fanatic

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    Beautiful photo, thank you.
     

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