Original Research

A veterinary survey of factors associated with capture-related mortalities in cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus)

Cindy Braud, Emily P. Mitchell, Vincent van der Merwe, Adrian S.W. Tordiffe
Journal of the South African Veterinary Association | Vol 90 | a1723 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/jsava.v90i0.1723 | © 2019 Cindy Braud, Emily P. Mitchell, Vincent van der Merwe, Adrian S.W. Tordiffe | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 09 August 2018 | Published: 31 July 2019

About the author(s)

Cindy Braud, Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD), UMR ASTRE, Campus International de Baillarguet, Montpellier, France
Emily P. Mitchell, Gardens of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa; and, Department of Paraclinical Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Onderstepoort, South Africa
Vincent van der Merwe, Endangered Wildlife Trust, Carnivore Conservation, Modderfontein, South Africa
Adrian S.W. Tordiffe, Department of Paraclinical Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Onderstepoort, South Africa


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Abstract

The objective of this study was to gain better insight into factors associated with the capture-related mortality rate in cheetahs. A link to an online questionnaire was sent to zoo and wildlife veterinarians through the Species Survival Plan Programme and European Endangered Species Programme coordinators and via the ‘Wildlife VetNet’ Google group forum. The questionnaire consisted of 50 questions relating to the veterinarians’ country of residence and experience, the medicine combinations used, standard monitoring procedures, capture-related complications and mortalities experienced in this species under different capture conditions. In addition, necropsy data from the national wildlife disease database of the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa were examined for cases where anaesthetic death was listed as the cause of death in cheetahs. A total of 75 veterinarians completed the survey, with 38 from African countries and a combined total of 37 from Europe, the United States (US) and Asia. Of these, 24% (n = 18/75) had experienced at least one capture-associated cheetah mortality, with almost all of the fatalities (29/30) reported by veterinarians working in Africa. A lack of anaesthetic monitoring and the absence of supplemental oxygen were shown to be significant risk factors for mortality. Hyperthermia, likely to be associated with capture stress, was the most common reported complication (35%). The results suggest that free-ranging rather than habituated captive cheetahs are particularly at risk of dying during immobilisation and transport. The capture-related fatalities in this species do not appear to be associated with either the veterinarian’s level of clinical experience or the immobilisation agents used.

Keywords

Acinonyx jubatus; cheetahs; capture; immobilisation; survey; mortalities

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