Vaccinating dogs protects African wildlife

Photo taken by Jack Traeger  on an Ujuzi safari to Tanzania.
Photo taken by Jack Traeger on an Ujuzi safari to Tanzania.

When people think about threats to African wildlife, they often think of poaching. But it’s not the only cause of dwindling animal populations. Disease is also a big concern. For example, rabies can spread from domestic animals to lions and other wildlife, decimating their populations.

Since 2003, scientists have been offering free rabies vaccines for domestic dogs around Tanzania’s Serengeti, resulting in a dramatic drop of rabies cases among the park’s lions and also saving many human lives. Before the program began, 50 to 150 people in the area died of rabies each year.

“It’s very, very effective,” Joseph Ogwa, acting district livestock official for the Bunda District, told the Chicago Tribune. “We don’t have cases now. I remember 10 years ago it wasn’t good because there were so many cases of rabies.”

Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo has been in charge of the vaccination program for the past five years and is looking for additional funding to continue it. It costs about $110,000 a year to run the program. You can donate here on the Lincoln Park Zoo website.

An article in The Verge illustrates the importance of vaccination programs in protecting wildlife. It shows how – before vaccination programs were in place for domestic dogs – canine distemper spread to Serengeti’s lions, then mutated to become endemic among the predators.

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