Pet Turtle Disease Could Spread to Humans
A pet turtle was diagnosed with a highly contagious disease that could spread to pet owners.
Galapagos National Park
Lonesome George - the Last Pinta Island Tortoise
June 25, 2012 -
Lonesome George, the last Pinta Island giant tortoise and celebrated symbol of conservation efforts has died. George passed away in the Galapagos Islands with no known offspring after several attempts at breeding George with other similar tortoise species, according to AFP. Lonesome George's longtime caretaker, Fausto Llerena, found the giant tortoise's remains stretched out in the "direction of his watering hole" on Santa Cruz Island, according to AFP. Estimated to be more than 100 years old, the creature's cause of death remains unclear and a necropsy is planned. Lonesome George was discovered on Pinta Island in 1972 at a time when giant tortoises of his type, Geochelone nigra abingdoni, were already believed to be extinct, according to AFP. The following is a look at other at risk animals in the world.
NEWS: Extinct' Giant Tortoise Found on Remote Island
Animals at Risk Since the Endangered Species Act's passage 33 years ago, 1,800 species have been listed as endangered and nine have become extinct. ARKive, a collection of the world's best wildlife films and photographs, gathered together a list of the most at risk animals. The Tiger has undergone large population declines across Cambodia and the rest of Asia, according to ARKive.
Doc White /naturepl.com
Blue Whale (Endangered) Once hunted nearly to extinction, the blue whale is the largest animal to have ever lived, growing to around 27 meters (88.5 feet) long and weighing up to an astounding 120 tons. It also produces the loudest call of any animal on Earth. Although hunting of the blue whale was banned in 1966, the recovery of this magnificent marine mammal has been exceptionally slow.
Giant Panda (Endangered) The giant panda is universally admired for its appealing markings and seemingly gentle demeanor. A charismatic conservation icon, the giant panda is threatened by habitat loss, with large areas of China’s natural forest being cleared for agriculture, timber and firewood to meet the needs of the large and growing human population.
Tiger (Endangered) The tiger is one of the most emblematic symbols of conservation today, and its distinctively patterned coat and fearsome reputation make this species instantly recognizable. However, the tiger is facing the grave threat of extinction due to illegal poaching and habitat loss.
Sumatran Orangutan (Critically endangered) The name of the Sumatran orangutan means "person of the forest." The biggest threat to the Sumatran orangutan is the loss of its forest habitat, with around 80 percent of the forest on Sumatra vanishing in recent years due to illegal logging, gold mining and conversion to permanent agriculture, in particular, palm oil plantations.
Black Rhinoceros (Critically endangered) Contrary to its name, the black rhinoceros is actually grey in color. It was hunted almost to the brink of extinction for its impressive horn, which can grow up to 60 cm (23.6 inches), largely due to the demand for horn in Chinese traditional medicine and for traditional dagger handles in Yemen.
Philippine Eagle (Critically endangered) The striking Philippine eagle is the world's largest eagle and also one of the world’s most threatened raptors. The destruction of its habitat is the main cause of its dramatic decline, with vast tracts of tropical forests in the Philippines having been cleared for commercial development and for shifting cultivation.
Kakapo (Critically endangered) As the world’s only flightless parrot, the kakapo is a truly unique bird which is threatened by introduced species in its native home of New Zealand. Conservationists have taken the drastic measure of removing all surviving kakapo to predator-free islands, so far averting the extinction of this remarkable bird.
Hawksbill Turtle (Critically endangered) The hawksbill turtle possesses a beautiful marbled shell, which has been exploited for thousands of years as the sole source of commercial tortoiseshell. Illegal demand for its shell, and for its eggs, meat and even stuffed juveniles as exotic gifts, have led to the dramatic decline of this species over the last century. A further threat to the hawksbill turtle is global climate change.
Michael D. Kern/naturepl.com
Lemur Leaf Frog (Critically endangered) The lemur leaf frog is specially adapted for a life in the trees with adhesive pads on its toes. Eggs are laid on leaf surfaces and when hatched the larvae are washed off or fall into water below. This nocturnal tree frog was once considered to be a reasonably common species in Costa Rica, but it is threatened by the loss of its forest habitat and most populations in Costa Rica have recently disappeared.
Scalloped Hammerhead (Endangered) Forming impressively large schools, female scalloped hammerheads gather in the Gulf of California during the day, around underwater mountains known as seamounts, where they perform a wide range of behaviors yet to be understood. The scalloped hammerhead is under threat due to fishing pressures and in particular is a victim of shark finning. ANIMAL PLANET: Endangered Species Guide
A researcher has identified the first Australian case of a captive turtle being infected with a highly contagious disease, which has the potential to spread to humans.
If let unchecked, the disease could have a huge impact on Australia native species.
The research will be presented at the Australian Veterinary Association's Unusual and Exotic Pets Annual Conference on Sunday.
Debbie Bannan, a second year veterinary science student from James Cook University in Townsville, said she discovered the disease on an Emydura macquarii, a common species of pet turtle, which was brought to a vet clinic where she was volunteering.
She said the turtle presented with a lesion on its front forelimb, which they thought was an isolated inflammation of the bone and could be treated by amputating its limb and flipper.
"It started to rehabilitate really well," said Bannan. "But three months after that it rapidly went downhill and reluctantly we had to euthanize it."
Bannan said when they conducted a post-mortem, they found the turtle had a bacterial disease, called mycobacterium, that had spread throughout its entire body.
"Mycobacterium is much like staph on human skin, and it can be carried by lots of animals."
The bacterium isn't pathogenic until it enters the body, through air passages, cuts or the intestines, she said.
Bannan said mycobacterium doesn't usually affect healthy animals, but it can have serious consequences for animals that are immuno-compromised.
She said treatment for mycobacterium in captive turtles can be lengthy and costly.
"It can take six to 12 months and it's not always successful."
Once the bacterium has spread throughout the body, the turtle will most likely need to be euthanized, she said.
But what concerns Bannan about her research, is that there are no previously recorded cases of mycobacterium in captive turtles in Australia.
"If there is no literature it means it's harder for vets to identify and treat quickly," she said.
Bannan is concerned the disease could transfer to species in the wild.
Often people buy turtles because they're "very cute" when their young, but people find they don't have room for them when they grow and throw them into nearby river or water way, she said.
"They can survive there and then become a threat to native species in the wild."
Bannan said mycobacterium can also transfer to humans.
She said there are reported cases of children being infected with mycobacterium from their pet turtle.
"It can get in your cuts and cause a lesion."
But Bannan said it is unlikely to make humans sick if they're fit and healthy.
"It's no Hendra virus," she said.
Bannan said the same risk applied to other pets.
"It is unlikely they will get sick if they are fit and healthy."
Veterinary nurse Sonia Sim, of Deception Bay Veterinary Clinic in Queensland, which specializes in the care of reptiles, said captive turtle are prone to bacterial and fungal skin infections because they're often kept in tanks, which can be a breeding ground for pathogens if the water isn't changed regularly.
She said its important pet owners ensure their turtle has clean water, a balanced diet and access to UV light to prevent it being infected with harmful bacteria.
"We encourage people who keep them in tanks indoors to get them outside a few times a week, which helps to dry out their skin and shell and keep them healthy."
Bannan said more research needs to be done on captive turtles to determine if the entire species is at risk of mycobacterium infection, or just those animals that are unwell.
She said her research demonstrates that mycobacterium can present itself in different ways.
"Veterinarians should look beyond a lesion or a node."