Game species are being farmed more and more intensively in South Africa. It was therefore only a matter of time before parasites and diseases – which were usually a problem of domestic livestock – started to become a problem in wildlife as well.
Wireworm (Haemonchus sp) has become a huge issue especially where high value antelope such as Sable and Roan are kept intensively. This parasite is about 2 to 3 cm in length and resembles a piece of hair (Afrikaans: Haarwurm). On closer inspection one might see the worm’s ovaries twisted around its blood filled gut in females, which is where the term ‘Barber’s pole worm’ originates.
The crux of this parasite is that it causes severe blood loss and eventually death. Each worm removes about 0.05 mL of blood a day. This might not seem like much, but once an animal is infected with around 2000 worms the loss becomes 100 mL, with an infection of 20 000 worms the loss becomes 1 L and with 35 000 worms 1.75 L of blood is lost every day!!
Animals that die from this parasite are typically extremely pale (mucous membranes are basically white). In many cases animals are also emaciated and there is accumulation of fluid in the abdomen, chest and between the muscles.
In the next post I’ll be looking at the wireworm lifecycle….