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Potential Impact of Four Common Viral Diseases on a Subpopulation of Endangered Ocelots (Leopardus pardalis) in Southern Texas

Katherine Fogelberg1; Michael Tewes2
1 College of Veterinary Medicine, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA
2 Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, Kingsville, TX USA          Katherine picture

Objective  –  To look at the impact several common diseases might have on an isolated subpopulation of  (Leopardus pardalis) over a 100-year period using population viability analysis (PVA). 

Sample population – Seven free-ranging ocelots; six males (four adults, one juvenile) and one female (adult).

Procedure – Serum samples were evaluated using KELA (FeLV, FIP, FIV), HAI (FPV), and Western Blot (FIV).  Results were used to develop parameters for the VORTEX computer program and six PVAs were produced.  Each PVA ran through 1000 iterations, and mean probability of extinction (M[e]) was compared to see the impact each disease and disease combination had.

Results – Regardless of disease, this subpopulation will likely become extinct within the next 50-60 years.  Adding disease, extinction may occur 10-30 years sooner.  Six ocelots tested positive for antibodies, indicating exposure to two of the diseases studied (FIV, FPV).  These results were surprising and caused a more rapid extirpation when factored into VORTEX.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance – This subpopulation is not naïve to two of the viruses studied.  Therefore, the probability of other diseases arriving in the population must be considered a serious possibility.  Continued health monitoring of these animals is needed to determine the effects of these diseases, as the PVAs indicate disease is a very real threat to this population’s viability.  It is imperative that further study be conducted in this arena so future conservation efforts may take into account disease and its effects when planning and executing strategies to help these cats survive in the wild.