African Lions and Zoonotic Diseases: Implications for Commercial Lion Farms in South Africa
World Animal Protection 222 Gray’s Inn Rd., London WC1X 8HB, UK
Blood Lion NPC, P.O. Box 1548, Kloof 3640, South Africa
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 21 August 2020 / Revised: 14 September 2020 / Accepted: 17 September 2020 / Published: 18 September 2020
In South Africa, thousands of African lions are bred on farms for commercial purposes, such as tourism, trophy hunting, and traditional medicine. Lions on farms often have direct contact with people, such as farm workers and tourists. Such close contact between wild animals and humans creates opportunities for the spread of zoonotic diseases (diseases that can be passed between animals and people). To help understand the health risks associated with lion farms, our study compiled a list of pathogens (bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi) known to affect African lions. We reviewed 148 scientific papers and identified a total of 63 pathogens recorded in both wild and captive lions, most of which were parasites (35, 56%), followed by viruses (17, 27%) and bacteria (11, 17%). This included pathogens that can be passed from lions to other animals and to humans. We also found a total of 83 diseases and clinical symptoms associated with these pathogens. Given that pathogens and their associated infectious diseases can cause harm to both animals and public health, we recommend that the lion farming industry in South Africa takes action to prevent and manage potential disease outbreaks.