Parasites and parasitic diseases of the Indian elephant,mithun and yak : An overview

K M L PATHAK, M B CHHABRA

Abstract


The Indian elephant, mithun and yak are utility animals. Each of them is a valuable natural resource and important constituent of India’s unique biodiversity. However, their numbers have declined and their existence is facing several challenges, of which a major one is parasites and diseases caused by them. While much of the information on the parasites of Indian elephant dates back to the pre-mechanization British era, the setting up of dedicated Research Centres on Mithun and Yak by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, has resulted in generation of considerable research data and regular flow of information in recent years. The elephant is unique regarding most of its internal (and a few external) parasites not being shared with other livestock hosts. As per updated information, the Indian elephant is parasitized by 39 helminths, made up by 8 trematodes including the most pathogenic Fasciola jacksoni, 2 cestodes and 29 nematodes including 3 filariid worms; among protozoa, only Trypanosoma, Babesia and ciliates are known; arthropods include the stomach bot Cobboldia, the louse Haematomyzus and atleast 4 genera of ticks. The mithun, being phylogenetically related to cattle, seems to share the same set of internal and external parasites. To date 12 nematode genera, 6 trematode genera and 2 cestodes have been recorded; protozoa comprised coccidia (8 Eimeria species identified so far), Giardia, Cryptosporidium and Balantidium. In addition, serological evidence of Toxoplasma gondii and Neospora caninum exists. Of arthropods, only ticks are reported. The parasites of yak are not fully explored. So far 11 nematode genera, 7 trematode genera and 3 cestodes (2 of them only as cysts) are on record. Among protozoa, only Eimeria (2 species identified) and in arthropods, warbles (Hypoderma), 6 genera of ticks, louse, flea and biting flies have been reported in India.


Keywords


Indian elephant; Mithun; Parasites; Parasitic diseases; Yak

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