1Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado, 2Department of Anthropology, University of North Dakota, 3Department of Medicine and Epidemiology, School of Veterinarian Medicine, University of California, Davis, 4Veterinary Sciences, Lindsay Wildlife Museum, 5Veterinary Sciences, Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, 6Parc Zoologique, Ivoloina, 7Veterinary Sciences, Hillcrest Veterinary Hospital, 8Department of Companion Animal Studies, University of Pretoria, 9Veterinary Sciences, St. Louis Zoo, 10Laboratoire de Biologie Animale et Ecologie Terrestre, Faculté des Sciences, Université de Toliara
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Placing wild primate biomedical values within an ecological context is essential for understanding how environmental perturbations affect health, and is important for developing both sound conservation policies and relevant information for good captive husbandry. We report values across a six-year period (2005-2010) for a wild population of ring-tailed lemurs at the Beza Mahafaly Special Reserve, Madagascar. Body weights, skin fold measurements, percentage hematocrits, white and red blood cell counts, serum protein and differentials (neutrophils, lymphocytes, monocytes and eosinophils) for wild lemurs (n = 39-69 individuals per year, depending on measure) are compared by year and annual wet season rainfall. Results indicate a major destructive cyclone in 2005 that caused a reduction or failure of key foods during the birth season and early lactation period of 2005, followed by a drought in 2006, had significant impacts on biomedical values. Body weights (p<.001), white blood cell counts (p<.004), and skin fold measurements (as a measure of body fat; p<.01) reached a six-year low for most age classes. Differentials such as neutrophils and lymphocytes were also affected, with statistically significant lower neutrophil counts among adults and subadults, lower counts in subadults relative to adults, and lower counts in adult males versus females. Monocytes also reached a six-year low (p<.001). These changes in biomedical measures appear related to stress, driven by a period of nutritional challenge in the aftermath of major cyclone damage, and provide strong support that stochastic climatic events can have dramatic impacts on wild primate physiological measures.
Funding: National Geographic Society, National Science Foundation (BCS 0922465), Primate Conservation Inc., The St. Louis Zoo, University of North Dakota, University of Colorado.