In 2019, animal welfare inspectors visited Pienika Farm, a captive-lion facility in the North West province of South Africa. They found sick lion after sick lion living in conditions inspectors described as “horrific.” Twenty-seven animals were severely infected with mange, a condition caused by parasitic mites, while cubs twitched in the dirt, suffering from neurological disorders. Dozens of lions were crammed into cages meant only to hold a few. Rotting food and feces littered the ground. These are the ideal conditions for pathogens to grow and spread, resulting in disease, says Louise de Waal, a wildlife conservationist and one of the directors of Blood Lions, a nonprofit campaign platform launched after the release of the 2015 film Blood Lions. The spread of disease is not only dangerous for the lions (Panthera leo) themselves, she said, but there is a possibility that disease could spill over into the human population, threatening human health and even triggering future epidemics. According to a recent peer-reviewed paper co-authored by De Waal and other experts from Blood Lions and World Animal Protection, captive and wild lions are known to carry a total of 63 pathogens — including parasites, bacteria and viruses — and these can result in about 83 diseases and clinical symptoms. Some of these pathogens can be transmitted from lions to other species, including humans, the research says. A captive lion with no fur on its nose due to mange. Image by Louise de Waal. The Blood Lions team has identified five diseases…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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