Linking in situ and ex situ management: Exploring vaccine immunogenicity and capture stress in the African Painted Dog (Lycaon pictus)

Author: Nicole Anderson

Anderson, Nicole, 2018 Linking in situ and ex situ management: Exploring vaccine immunogenicity and capture stress in the African Painted Dog (Lycaon pictus), Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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The African Painted Dog (Lycaon pictus) is recognised as one of Africa’s most endangered large carnivores with the establishment of global captive populations employed as a precautionary approach to the potential risk of extinction. Effective conservation decisions are needed to mitagate further populations declines in this species with the integration of applied ecology and zoo biology being necessary to improve management outcomes. Health and disease is important for the African Painted Dog as episodic disease events have contributed to severe population declines and localised extinctions of free-ranging populations. Similar risks also extend to captive populations. Vaccination is an integral part of controlling infectious disease in wildlife populations as it decreases disease incidence and lowers transmission rates. Vaccines developed for domestic animals are routinely used to prevent the risk of disease in wildlife species. But, despite widespread use, little is known about how effective these vaccines are for threatened species. This disparity requires investigation and is a focus of this research.

Factors that can influence a vaccine’s efficacy relate to the characteristics of the vaccine itself or to the host that is being vaccinated. In this study the latter is examined, with host-specific factors targeting duration of immunity, as well as, the degree of stress individuals’ experience when immobilised. This study demonstrates that the inactivated Parvac™ vaccine designed to mitigate the risk of canine parvovirus is safe to use in the African Painted Dog. The duration of immunity is however disproportionately shorter than that for domestic dogs, with a modification of the inoculation schedule recommended to extend protective immunity in the African Painted Dog.

In its assessment of the stress response, the study shows that individual animals were able to adapt to the short term stress imposed by capture and handling. This was determined by the primary stress mediator, cortisol, by invasive and non-invasive means. Through repeated monitoring of cortisol across successive capture events a chronic stress response was also characterised. Social stress is deemed to be a contributing factor in the chronic stress response, with the frequency of stressors rather than their origin being of greater importance. The results demonstrate that where there are consistently high cortisol concentrations protective immunity is reduced.

Examining the immunogenicity of vaccines in protecting species against infectious disease and the effects of stress are both areas that have the potential to refine or develop existing methodologies and alternative strategies for better animal health and welfare practices. Through its examination of these interlinked themes this study contributes to better disease management practices and improved assessment of the effect that research practices have on animal welfare.

Keywords: African Painted Dog, Lycaon pictus canine parvovirus, vaccine immunogenicity, capture stress, African Wild Dog, large carnivore conservation, infectious disease management

Subject: Biodiversity and Conservation thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2018
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Iain Hay