Suspected lead poisoning in two captive cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus jubatus) in South Africa, in 2008 and 2013
CITATION: North, M. A. et al. 2015. Suspected lead poisoning in two captive cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus jubatus) in South Africa, in 2008 and 2013. Journal of the South African Veterinary Association, 86(1), Art. #1286, doi:10.4102/jsava.v86i1.1286.
The original publication is available at http://www.jsava.co.za
Whilst lead poisoning in raptors, scavenging birds and waterfowl is well studied and common knowledge, there is surprisingly little literature detailing the risk to mammalian scavengers and captive carnivores fed hunted meat. This case report describes the death of two captive cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus jubatus) following acute onset of nervous symptoms. Clinical signs included hyper-excitability, seizures, arched back, tail held abnormally high and hyper-salivation. Necropsy findings included bullets or a bullet in their stomachs. Kidney and liver lead levels from one cheetah (15.6 ppm and 17 ppm respectively) were consistent with a diagnosis of lead poisoning; liver from the second cheetah was not available for testing. Both animals were routinely fed hunted antelope or game birds. This is the first report of oral lead poisoning in captive large carnivores, although these are unlikely to be the first cases. Without awareness of the risks of feeding hunted game, lead exposure will continue to be an underdiagnosed reality in the rehabilitation of endangered carnivores.