Date of Award

5-2016

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Biological Sciences

Committee Member

Dr. David W. Tonkyn, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Charles Rice

Committee Member

Dr. A. B. Shrivastav

Abstract

Many mammalian carnivore species persist in small, isolated populations as a result of habitat destruction, fragmentation, poaching, and human conflict. Their small numbers, limited genetic variability, and increased exposure to domestic animals such as dogs place them at risk of further losses due to infectious diseases. In India, dogs ranging from domestic to feral are associated with villages in and around protected areas, and may serve as reservoirs and vectors of pathogens to the carnivores within. India’s Kanha Tiger Reserve (KTR) is home to a number of threatened and endangered mammalian carnivores including tigers (Panthera tigris), leopards (Panthera pardus), wolves (Canis lupus), and dhole (Cuon alpinus). It also contains hundreds of small villages with associated dog populations, and my goal was to determine whether these dogs pose a disease threat to KTR's wild carnivores. In the summer of 2014 and again in the winter of 2015 I estimated the density of dogs in villages of varying sizes and distances from KTR's core zone, and the exposure of these dogs to four pathogens that could threaten wild carnivores: rabies, canine parvovirus (CPV), canine distemper (CDV), and canine adenovirus (CAV). Dog population densities ranged from 3.7 to 23.7/km2 (14 to 45 dogs/village), and showed no systematic variation with village area or human population size. These dog populations grew in all villages between the summer of 2014 and winter of 2015, primarily through reproduction. No dog tested positive for rabies but I found high levels of seroprevalence to the other three pathogens: CPV (83.6% in summer 2014, 68.4% in winter 2015), CDV (50.7% in summer 2014, 30.4% in winter 2015) and CAV (41.8% in summer 2014, 30.9% in winter 2015). The declines in seroprevalence between summer and winter were primarily due to births in the population, of animals not exposed to the viruses. I opportunistically documented interactions between the dogs and wild carnivores that might allow disease transmission. I measured these interactions as the presence of wild carnivores in surveyed villages. In this study I document the existence of a large population of unvaccinated dogs in and around KTR, with high levels of seroprevalence to pathogens with broad host ranges. These dogs also have frequent contact with wild carnivores. I conclude that these dogs pose a high risk of disease spillover to wild carnivores in the region. I also tested for CPV and CDV in wild carnivore samples obtained from the KTR Forest Department from 2010 to 2015. While one tiger blood sample was seropositive for CPV antibodies, the reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction found no evidence of CPV in tissue samples from five tigers, one leopard and one palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus), and no CPV or CDV in the three blood samples of tigers. Despite these results, I argue for continued surveillance in KTR, given the ubiquity of village dogs in the area with high seroprevalence of CDV and CPV and the contact between dogs and endangered carnivores in KTR.

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