Chris Janson Piers

Investigating lumpy jaw in macropods

- 20th Jan, 2017

Jessica Rendle is a PhD student studying Conservation Medicine at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Murdoch University in Western Australia. Her project investigating lumpy jaw in captive macropods received  approval from BIAZA's Research Committee.

Several BIAZA collections took part in the questionnaire and UK zoos Paignton Zoo, Blackpool Zoo, and Flamingo Land were visited by Jessica where she carried out additional data collection for her project.  Jessica is still in the data collection phase of the project and is currently collecting data in Australian collections.

Here is Jessica's description of her project:

In search of health and hoppiness!
Lumpy jaw is a leading cause of death in zoo-housed macropods (kangaroos, wallabies and their relatives) worldwide. The disease is distinguished by inflammation and infection of the jaw bone, causing the characteristic appearance of lumps to the jaw. Treatments for lumpy jaw are often invasive and unsuccessful, and disease recurrence is common. The implication being that provision of treatment currently tends to be considered costly and without benefit for the zoo, both financially and in terms of the animals’ health and welfare. Preventive measures that could be implemented in the day-to-day management of macropods would be preferable to treatment, and effective preventive measures against lumpy jaw are currently being sought by zoos worldwide.

The aim of this research is to determine the housing and husbandry requirements that will prevent and/or reduce outbreaks of lumpy jaw in zoos. This multi-institutional investigation will focus on the roles that housing and husbandry may have on incidence and prevalence of lumpy jaw, in macropods species housed in zoos across the UK, Europe and Australia. We are investigating the effect that management procedures have on macropod health and welfare, and examining the efficacy of treatments provided.

To identify best-practice housing and husbandry to manage this disease, several zoos across the UK, Europe and Australia have been visited. At each zoo, a retrospective investigation of lumpy jaw, using 20 years of zoo-based records, including husbandry, medical and post mortem reports (using the ZIMS database), was undertaken. We have obtained a wide range of information, including the specific housing systems and sizes in use, stocking densities, husbandry procedures/processes and biosecurity arrangements. The study also included direct observation of routine husbandry practices during macropod keeper rounds. The research is also exploring the incidence of disease in wild populations of macropods, using data from free-living animals (utilising skulls obtained from animals culled as part of population management) as the baseline for creating recommendations for optimal captive care of zoo-housed conspecifics. 

In addition, a detailed questionnaire has been sent to over 500 zoos across the UK, Europe, and Australia, requesting information on current/recent macropod housing, husbandry, incidence of lumpy jaw and any treatments provided. We have received a phenomenal response with over 20% of these zoos providing their data, many of which are BIAZA collections; this multi-institutional input will provide further support to our research findings.

The results of this investigation will include the identification of the specific management practices associated with the development of lumpy jaw, the best management protocols to minimise disease risks, and the most effective remedial treatments. They will also form a baseline for revised housing, husbandry, health and welfare recommendations, providing zoo keepers and veterinarians with a practical framework for the prevention, management and most effective treatment regime(s) for lumpy jaw in a captive environment. The anticipated benefits of these recommendations will be a decrease in morbidity and mortality rates associated with this challenging condition, thereby having a significant positive impact on the welfare of captive macropods, not just in zoos across the UK and Europe, but worldwide.



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