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Emerging Disease in Kenyan Rhinoceros

  • black rhino in brush

Kenya is a biodiversity hotspot of global importance and a growing economy and population. The savannah of northern Kenya is home to several threatened species including the black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis). In recent years, a novel, severe, ulcerative skin infection has been identified in the highly endangered black rhinoceros population in northern Kenya. The cause of this new disease is currently unknown, and the effects on both the short-term health as well as on their long-term survival is also unclear.

Global Health Program staff have been invited to partner with the Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) to utilize pathology and molecular diagnostics capabilities to identify, characterize, and develop treatment plans for this valuable endangered species. Pathologist and Morris Animal Foundation Global Health Fellow Kali Holder is leading the effort to uncover the cause of this emerging disease.

GHP staff worked with Kenya Wildlife Service partners to aid in sample collection during a recent translocation of rhinos to the newly formed Sera Rhinoceros Conservancy. The samples collected will be processed in both GHP labs in Washington, D.C. and Kenya Wildlife Services lab in Nairobi, Kenya. This research is made possible by support from the Smithsonian Women’s Committee and the Morris Animal Foundation.