Kudu Rabies in Namibia


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May 20, 2011
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Where in Namibia was the Kudu rabies the worst. I am planning a hunt south and east almost on the Botswana and RSA border. Anyone know how bad it was there?
The rabies outbreak in Namibia earlier this year has certainly has had an impact on the Kudu in Namibia. From what I have heard the rabies outbreak was mainly more centrally located within the country and spread from Windhoek to the Northern Communal Areas. Some areas have been affected more than others however having not seen a report on this year's outbreak it is hard to say exactly as it is a sensitive topic. It seems that the rabies situation in Namibia has subsided for now...
If I thought the kudu were somewhat scarce in the area I'm going to I would think more about an eland of some other trophy. It is not really a big deal more there to take then I have money for. I am going on a day rate so that does'nt affect me as much as a packaged deal but I will be south of Windhoek. Lenny
Jerome, does MET have any reports on historical outbreaks?
Study of Rabies in Kudu in Namibia

Jerome, does MET have any reports on historical outbreaks?

I could not find anything... and MET's website is not acting the way it should, something is wrong there.

Anyway, here is an excerpt from a research article entitled "A molecular epidemiological study of rabies epizootics in kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros) in Namibia" and published January 2006, to access the full article click here...

By the mid-1970s there was sporadic but endemic rabies throughout most of Namibia, generally with dog and human rabies in the more populous north, jackal and cattle rabies in the central ranching areas and sporadic canid or mongoose rabies in the arid sheep farming areas of the south.

The unusual occurrence of rabies in the kudu antelope (Tragelaphus strepsiceros) was first observed in 1975 near Windhoek. However an epizootic of rabies in these antelopes began to the north in Okahandja district in 1977 and was in the same year that rabies was first confirmed in two kudu in the Etosha National Park. The number of confirmed cases rose steadily throughout 1978?979, spreading westwards along the Swakop River and then north and south during 1978. The latter part of the epizootic (1983?984) coincided with the first cases of lions contracting the disease in the Etosha National Park. It is thought that the lions became infected from hunting rabid kudu, as all four reports of rabid lions were from an area of high kudu population density in eastern Etosha. This kudu epizootic peaked in 1980, but had eventually subsided by 1985, by which time it caused an estimated loss of 30?0 000 antelope, or 20% of the population. However, during 2002 there was another substantial outbreak in kudu, where an estimated 2500 animals on more than 81 farms in Namibia died. This outbreak continued into 2003.

The kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros) is a wild ruminant with spiralling twisted horns, and is generally found in areas of broken rocky terrain where there is easy access to water. In Namibia, the main food source for the kudu is the leaves of Acacia species, including Acacia hereroensis (Berg thorn), along with a variety of other plants in the savannah woodland. They spend most of the year living in small herds of four to six animals which eat and move together, and have close contact with each other through activities such as mutual grooming. These groups will split up during the breeding season, but will come together again later. Contact between different social groups can occur at watering places, along with the possibility of contact with other species. Farm fencing that is usually effective for cattle and gemsbok does not control the movement of kudu, as the kudu can easily jump a 1.2 m fence. The social behaviour of kudu has contributed to the spread of rabies, and it is thought that mouth lesions from the browsing of thorn-bushes may have been a contributing factor due to the presence of RABV in saliva.

The kudu epizootics in Namibia have provided an example of non-bite transmission, with horizontal spread between kudus, and posed a threat to human health via the game breeding and hunting industries in Namibia. At the time of the 1977?983 epizootic, kudu constituted more than 60% of the game farming trade, therefore rabies-infected kudu were a threat to both the consumer and hunter of game.
Thanks Jerome for this research report.
I could not get the MET site to respond either.

What is the typical symptomology in the Kudu that are infected?
Any tips on what to look for?
Some biological facts of the kudu

What is the typical symptomology in the Kudu that are infected?
Any tips on what to look for?

Here is an excerpt from an article entitled "Some Aspects of the Rabies Epizootic in Namibia" published May 2003, see attached pdf document to read full article...

3.3 Some biological facts of the kudu
Kudus are usually forming small herds, which averages 5 animals and rarely exceed a dozen. These groups stay close together, they move together and they feed together. Bulls often range over great distances especially during the rut (June, July) and make contact with other social groups.

Kudus are browsers and in Namibia they are largely dependent on the leaves of Acacia trees. It has been shown that the sharp thorns of these trees can inflict wounds in the oral cavity.

Since there was no observed increase of vectors such as jackals, an oral transmission of rabies from kudu to kudu has been assumed, especially also because they are feeding close to each other and may have contact with saliva of infected animals also by grooming. Experimentally it has been proven that kudus are susceptible for an oral transmission of the rabies virus (Barnard et al., 1982).

During favourable years with good rainy seasons the number of kudus may increase considerably. However, if this time is followed by dry years the food gets scarce, what forces the animal to feed even in closer contact. Such conditions with an overpopulation of the antelopes and with following dry years happened in the outbreak of 1977 and are also now present. Farmers in the vicinity of outbreaks should be advised to reduce the number of their kudus to stop the disease spreading.

The main symptoms of rabid kudus are:
- loss of fear, they do not flee when approached, visit buildings
- moderate to copious salivation
- ataxia, swaying gait followed by paralysis
- some animals behave aggressive

Interesting is the fact that during a kudu rabies outbreak many animals obviously with rabies-like symptoms, which are submitted to rabies testing, proved to be negative. In a study performed by Barnard and Hassel (1981) 27 of 80 kudus, which showed rabies-like symptoms were tested negative. 15% of them had increased salivation and 25% showed docility, many of them visited buildings. No answer for this behaviour could be given.


  • Some-Aspects-of-the-Rabies-Epizootic-in-Namibia.pdf
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Thanks J.

Good points to pay attention to.
Since this is a "touchy subject" farms are not going to be advertising this information readily.

No further testing on the "negatives" to see if another disease was present. Have to wonder.
Just heard from my PH (Jamy Traut) and he says it hasn't been all that bad
Cliffy, Are you going with Traut or did you just return? I hunted with him at EDEN before he went out on his own. Fun guy to hunt with.
Yes, there was a Kudu die off. This has stopped at the moment. It was arround the Windhoek area and as far up as Otavi. Some lost up to 70% of their Kudu. The other symptom that Phillip mentioned is an intollerance to a substance the thorn trees discharge when the first green leaves appear. When the Kudu eat too much of these fresh green leaves they become ill. It is not dangerous to humans.
The rabies outbreaks especially amongst kudu are a natural phenomenon that occurs every couple of years. It is usually most prevalent in the central northern area where the highest densities of kudu are found. In the far south kudu numbers are low and disease outbreaks like these are less frequent.
I am going back to hunt with Jamy once again I also hunted Eden with him a few years ago and the couple we had accompany us for their first safari back then have rebooked with him and we 4 will once again enjoy his hospitality. As you know, he provides a GREAT safari hunting experience.
I am going back to hunt with Jamy once again I also hunted Eden with him a few years ago and the couple we had accompany us for their first safari back then have rebooked with him and we 4 will once again enjoy his hospitality. As you know, he provides a GREAT safari hunting experience.

Jamy has left Eden and has his own hunting safari in the Caprivi area.
You will enjoy it there.
Rabies Conference

The Kudu Rabies Donor Conference was held at the NAU on Wednesday, 28 August 2013 and was attended by its Patron, Dr Libertina Amathila, Mr Mecki Schneider, Dr Rainer Hassel (who led the presentation on Kudu Rabies in Namibia), Dr Mark Jago as well as various other stakeholders and representatives of the press.

Dr Rainer Hassel stressed that the current Kudu rabies epidemic is more pronounced than the last one (during 1977 to 1986) and is becoming worse instead of diminishing. Dr Amathila highlighted the fact that the proposed Kudu Rabies Project will serve as an important step in strategically controlling rabies in affected Kudu populations and pointed out: "The exciting part of this project is that it will attempt to prove certain assumptions on the transmission of the disease, as well as investigating the possibility of oral vaccination of the kudu species."

To date, since 1977, two rabies epidemics have occurred in the kudu populations of Namibia. This disease is currently a serious threat to the Kudu population as well as wildlife in general. According to an estimate done in 1982 (4 years before the end of that epidemic), 30 000 to 50 000 kudus (20-40%) of the kudu population have died from rabies during the time-span from 1977 to 1986. Since 2002 a pronounced increase in Kudu rabies numbers have occurred and this second epidemic is still active. A small survey was conducted on 12 farms in the Otavi and Tsumeb area in March 2011 and based on game counts in the time-span from 2008 to 2010 an average Kudu loss (due to rabies) of 46% was calculated. Rabies in Kudu populations is said to occur in cycles in areas with dense populations of Kudu. The rabies virus in Kudu is thought to originate from the black-backed jackal.

In an alarming quote by researchers Terence Scott, Siegfried Khaiseb, Louis Nel (et.al.) it was stated that: 'We found the grouping of all rabies isolates from Kudu to those of any other canid species in Namibia, suggesting that rabies was maintained independently in Kudu. Additionally we noted several mutations unique to isolates from Kudu, suggesting that these mutations may be due to adaptation of rabies to a new host.'
The Kudu Rabies Project proposed lays out the following objectives:

1. To collect and evaluate epidemiological data (studying patterns, causes, and effects of health and disease conditions in specific populations) regarding the current rabies outbreak among Kudu in Namibia

2. To collect and evaluate sero-epidemiological data (Epidemiologic study through the use of serological (study of plasma serum and other bodily fluids) testing to detect infection) regarding the current rabies outbreak among Kudu in Namibia

3. To prove the possibility of horizontal transmission of rabies in Kudu

4. To develop an anti-rabies vaccine and bait suitable of effective oral vaccination of Kudu against rabies. Losing our Kudu is not only an immense loss to the trophy hunting industry and the Namibian economy in general but also a great loss of a Namibian trademark animal that attracts a great variety of tourists to our country every year. The Kudu is a symbol animal for Namibia. It harbours great aesthetic value, e.g. for the Eco-tourism sector, while being an important source of game meat and income for conservancies and game owners.

The proposed Kudu Rabies Project will cost a little over N$2 million. The Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Directorate of Veterinary Services (Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry), Namibia Agricultural Union, Agra Professional Services, University of Pretoria and IDT Biologika GmbH (Germany) have finalized a partnership and have expressed their commitment to this project. Donations to make this project possible are urgently needed!

If you are interested in getting involved in this initiative, financially or otherwise, then please contact Annatjie du Preez (NAU) for further information. Her contact details are:

Goodday all!

I'm from Namibia, 140km South-east of Windhoek.We have a private game-only farm.

The rabies epidemic is not an unusual thing for Namibia. Ever other year, when the populations are high, the rabies start. Then after that, you are left with a lot less kudu, then the cycle starts all over again when the populations are high again. Its just how it works. Some loose more kudu than others.

We are also in the trophy hunting industry and the reality is that the decrease in kudu populations, obviously will effect on the kudu trophy-quality due to the rabies. But, what I have seen with us (in our area) is that your big kudu bulls, which tend to stay all by themselves are not effected at all. I mean we shot 56", 57" and a 58.5" kudu this year when the rabies was at its worst! Every year, after a rabies outbreak like this, when we go to the DSC and SCI shows for marketing we tell clients; "We are not sure what to expect after a rabies outbreak like this when we look at the kudu trophy-quality, maybe 50-51" wil be fair...". And yet after that has been said, we still get monsters... I have been tracking our kudu "averages" in inches for the last 10 years. And it stayed constant at around 52-53" for the last 10 years. Which means that the rabies has a moderate effect on the trophy size on kudu.

With this been said, I must conclude that this is only in our area... It will change from area to area.
My best, Jacques
Kudu rabies

The prolonged kudu rabies epidemic, which became especially apparent during the rut this year again, is a big concern to everybody involved in wildlife in Namibia.

We had a meeting in very good spirit with Harald Margraff (Manager of Commodities for the NAU) of the NAU and Dr. Rainer Hassel, concerning an envisaged study as to the possibilities of kudu vaccination.

We have contributed the following:

NAPHA supports the study with the following NAPHA-specific perspectives
a) vaccination of kudu is seen as treatment of the symptom (which as such we support) but not as a cure of the real cause
b) overpopulation is seen as the real cause for the epidemic
c) NAPHA wishes to see population studies and effective kudu management to be part of a balanced study
d) press statements with emphasis of management issues and huntings role in conservation to accompany the study
e) internally NAPHA will discuss the possibilities of contributions to funding the study

Source: NAPHA (Namibian Professional Hunting Association)
Thanks Jerome for the post, this brings several thoughts to mind such as the the meat of the infected Kudu. I know in a lot if not all African countries they prossess the meat for market. What are the problems involved with rabied meat on the market? and after the treatment of the Kudu will the meat be fit to be eaten? if the treatment even works, I have been told that with our Wolf the rabies treatment had no effect and it just had to run it course which will solve the over population problem for the kudu. Please keep us informed as the reports come out. Bob

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