Canine diseases can have an impact on both human health and domestic and wild animals. Two major pathogens, rabies and canine distemper virus, are of principle concern for the pastoralist Maasai who live next to the Maasai Mara National Reserve.
Amongst the communities that live in the vicinity of the reserve are domestic dogs which are kept for livestock herding and household protection, with an estimated 10,000 dogs in Trans-Mara District. These dogs are in close contact with both humans and wild predators, and thus increase the threat of desease transmission to both populations.
Rabies is a complex and nearly always fatal disease of all warm-blooded animals. Frequent and random cases involving rabid dog attacks on both humans and livestock used to be reported regularly on the escarpment, especially among individuals aged under 15, before the vaccinations took place.
Canine Distemper Virus is capable of affecting both domestic and wild predators, and in 1994 a mutated form of the virus resulted in deaths of 1,000 lions in the Serengeti National Park. Other species affected were jackal, hyaena, cheetah, wild dog and bat eared foxes. Studies from Serengeti showed that Canine Distemper Virus in the wild carnivore is maintained solely by the domestic dog infections around the park/reserve.
The only way we can control the outbreak of Canine Distemper in domestic dogs and to avoid the spread of disease to wild carnivores is through ring vaccination. Ring vaccination is the vaccination of healthy animal populations surrounding the already existing outbreak so that we stop the spread of the disease. In our case, the ring vaccination involves domestic dogs surrounding the reserve, working our way towards a previous outbreak in Lolgorian and Kilgoris area, up to 60 km away from the reserve.
2006 – 2007 ; the project covered 500 dogs kept by the community adjacent to the reserve in Trans-Mara.
2007 – 2008 ; project vaccinated 3,263 dogs and 106 cats.
2008 – 2009 ; project vaccinated 8,635 dogs and 388 cats.
This website describes Canine Distemper Virus in further detail.
This site shows the video of the Serengeti lion affected by Canine Distemper.
This is an article written by the veterinarian who has carried out a ring vaccination of domestic dogs surrounding Serengeti to control the disease outbreak in lions.