Understanding immune responses in African elephants (Loxodonta africana)

Project Years: 2024

Project Partners:
Michele Miller, Stellenbosch University , South Africa

African elephant (Loxodonta africana) populations are declining due to poaching and habitat loss, with disease as a potential contributor. While there is literature regarding tuberculosis (TB) with Asian elephants, there is little regarding TB in African elephants. The importance of developing more accurate and rapid tools for TB in elephants has been highlighted by the ongoing cases in zoo elephants as well as the concern for the impact that this disease may have on already threatened wild populations. The overall aim of this research project is to characterize the immune responses of African elephants, in both the whole blood and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) in order to identify immune pathways and identify potential biomarkers of immune activation/sensitization in order to develop new tools to diagnose TB in African elephants. This project will work in South Africa’s Kruger National Park which is home to approximately 31,000 elephants. Tools developed will be important for informing TB management of free-ranging populations and minimizing the risk of disease spread during translocation of animals between fragmented populations, a crucial component of conservation programs globally.

IEF #EX1036