Overview Of Lemur Health And Disease

In considering the significance of disease in wild lemurs it is useful to consider what is currently known about both wild and captive lemur health. A number of biomedical surveys document a variety of natural maladies. In many cases individuals are able to survive quite dramatic natural health insults, including severe otitis externa (ear infection) (Figure 1), and facial trauma (Figure 2), probably of predator origin. Wild lemurs are often able to cope well with such maladies. For instance, the ring-tailed lemur with otitis was reevaluated one year later and was found to still have otitis; however, she had gained weight and was an active

Figure 1. Ear infection with drainage in a wild ring-tailed lemur at Beza Mahafaly Special Reserve.
Trauma Face Ancient

Figure 2. Nasal trauma in a wild white-fronted lemur (Eulemur fulvus albifrons) at Betampona Special Reserve with significant trauma to the face. The wound margins are healed and clean, suggesting that the wound occurred some time previously.

member of the population (Miller et al., in press). The white-fronted brown lemur with facial trauma was a dominant member of her troop (Junge, personal observation).

A review of the current literature provides scant information on the diseases of wild lemurs. No major epizootics have been reported. A few systematic surveys have been carried out (Garell and Meyers, 1995; Junge and Garell, 1995; Junge and Louis, 2002, 2005a; Dutton et al., 2003; Junge, 2005; Miller et al., in press); however, most reports consist of clinical description of illness in a single lemur. The literature on lemur pathogens provides a foundation for understanding disease susceptibilities of both captive and wild lemurs. Reports from wild lemurs describe parasites (enteric, systemic, hemoparasites), viral exposure, and bacterial infections. Ectoparasites include ticks (Haemophysalis lemuris), lice (Trichophylopterus babako-tus), and mites (Table 1). Endoparasites include both nematodes and pinworms (Table 2). There are few published reports of fecal cultures from wild lemurs, but recent lemur biomedical surveys have expanded this database (Table 3). Comparative information on health and disease exists for captive lemurs (Griner, 1983; Benirschke et al., 1985; Fl├╝gger and Pfeiffer, 1992; Junge, 1999, 2003) and includes documentation of parasites, viruses, bacterial infections, enteric pathogens, and fungal diseases (Table 4).

Several current health issues in wild lemurs have been identified that may have ecological and conservation significance. In most cases, parasite infestations can

Table 1. Wild lemur diseases and conditions






Landau et al., 1989

West Nile virus


Fontenille et al., 1988



Crawford et al., in press



Coulanges et al., 1979; Laakkonen and

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