Gastrointestinal parasites in captive and free-ranging birds and potential cross-transmission in a zoo environment

Patricio D. Carrera-Jativa, Eric R. Morgan, Michelle Barrows, Torsten Wronki

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Gastrointestinal parasites are commonly reported in wild birds, but transmission amongst avifauna in zoological settings, and between these captive birds and wild birds in surrounding areas, remains poorly understood. A survey was undertaken to investigate the occurrence of gastrointestinal parasites in captive and free-ranging birds at Bristol Zoo Gardens between May and July 2016. A total of 348 fecal samples from 32 avian species were examined using the Mini-FLOTAC flotation method. Parasites were detected in 31% (45/145) of samples from captive birds and in 65.5% (133/203) of samples from free-ranging birds. Parasites of captive individuals included ascarids (Heterakis spp. and other morphotypes), capillarids, oxyurids, strongyles, a trematode, and protozoans (Eimeria spp, Isospora spp., Caryospora sp., and Entamoeba spp.). Parasites of free-ranging birds included: ascarids (Ascaridia spp., Porrocaecum spp., and other morphotypes), capillarids, oxyurids, strongyles (Syngamus spp. and other morphotypes), cestodes (Choanotaenia sp, Hymenolepis spp, and other morphotypes), a trematode, and protozoans (Eimeria spp., Isospora spp., Entamoeba spp.). Similar types of parasites were detected in captive and free-ranging birds, but capillarid ova morphology was similar only between closely related species, e.g. in corvids (captive azure-winged magpies [Cyanipica cyana] and wild jackdaws [Corvus monedula]) and between wild columbids (collared doves [Streptopelia decaocto], rock doves [Columba livia], and wood pigeons [Columba palumbus]). The prevalence and intensity of nematodes and coccidia in birds housed outdoors did not differ statistically from species housed indoors. Results indicate that captive and free-ranging birds may share parasites when closely related, but this would need to be confirmed by the study of adult specimens and molecular tests. Determining which parasites are present in captive and free-ranging species in zoological parks will support the establishment of effective husbandry practices to maintain the health status of managed species.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)116-128
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Zoo ad Wildlife Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 01 Mar 2018

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