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May 2013
Contents / home
Disease research in cheetahs
Top awards for NZG research
Ragged-tooth shark released
Holiday fun at the zoo
Knysna seahorse pampering
Emma the lioness
11th ICEE comes to Africa
Exhibit draws large crowds
Scifest Africa 2013
A kiss from a seal
Farm programme fascinates
Rhino poaching update
Conservation Grapevine
 

Top awards for NZG research

 
  Dr Desiré Dalton received Wildlife Ranching South Africa's award for her "dedicated research and scientific contributions and outputs on Bontebok and Blesbok molecular research".
 
  Due to Dr Dalton's genetic test, the value of genetically pure Bontebok has increased dramatically - from approximately R2 000 to more than R30 000 per animal.
 
  Dr Morné de Wet received the 2013 Graduate Student Research Recognition Award of the Wildlife Disease Association for his breakthrough research on the health assessment of dolphins. Dr De Wet (back row, second from left) is pictured here with the team from the Port Elizabeth Museum, Dr Peter Wohlsein (on the far left), the NZG's Dr Emily Lane (on the far right) and Dr Stephanie Plön (front row, second from left).
 
  Coastal dolphin populations, as sentinels of environmental health, are sensitive to anthropogenic influences and may provide information on ecosystem health.
The National Zoological Gardens of South Africa (NZG) is proud to announce that one of its researchers and a student co-supervised by the NZG have received awards for their sterling scientific contributions.

At Wildlife Ranching South Africa's (WRSA) annual awards ceremony, Dr Desiré Lee Dalton, the NZG's Molecular Geneticist, scooped an award in recognition of her scientific contributions to the WRSA.

She received the award for her "dedicated research and scientific contributions and outputs on Bontebok and Blesbok molecular research". This was an extraordinary award as it was the first time that the WRSA presented an award for achievements in scientific research.

Dr Dalton has been instrumental in developing a genetic tool that can be used for the accurate identification of pure and hybrid animals. Hybridisation between species or sub-species can result in loss of genetic diversity, local adaptation and loss of pure populations. According to Peter Oberem of WRSA, the value of genetically pure Bontebok has increased dramatically - from approximately R2 000 per animal to more than R30 000 - due to this genetic test.

"The detection of pure and hybrid animals is of great importance to the biodiversity conservation of both sub-species," says Prof. Antoinette Kotze, Manager of Research and Scientific Services at the NZG. Currently, biodiversity conservation genetics research is an important focus area at the NZG. Dr Dalton's work has been published in peer-reviewed international scientific journals.

Says Dr Dalton: "I would like to recognise the NZG, Prof. Antoinette Kotze, as well as my staff and interns within the Molecular Ecology and Conservation Genetics Research Programme. Without them awards of this nature would not be possible."

Dr Morné de Wet

This Master's student from the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Pretoria received the 2013 Graduate Student Research Recognition Award of the Wildlife Disease Association (WDA). The award covers his costs in attending the annual WDA conference in Tennessee (USA) in July this year, where he will give the keynote presentation on the student presentation day of the conference.

His research project entailed a systematic health assessment of two coastal dolphin species - the Indian Ocean bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) and the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin (Sousa chinensis) bycaught off the KwaZulu-Natal coast of South Africa.

Coastal dolphin populations, as sentinels of environmental health, are sensitive to anthropogenic influences and may provide information on ecosystem health.

Dr Stephanie Plön, a biologist from the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB) and the Port Elizabeth Museum, observed an increase in abdominal serosal lesions during dissections of dolphins off the KwaZulu-Natal coast. She then initiated the first systematic health assessment of these dolphin populations, in collaboration with Dr Emily Lane (NZG), Dr Peter Thompson (University of Pretoria), Dr Peter Wohlsein and Prof Dr Ursula Siebert (University of Veterinary Medicine, Hannover, Germany).

The project was funded by the National Research Foundation's SeaChange and German and South African National Science Foundation DFG-NRF collaboration programme grants.

Dr De Wet developed a detailed necropsy protocol for health assessment of dolphins and documented various parasitic infections and the first case of lobomycosis, a fungal infection in dolphins off the South African coast. No prior information was available on the health status of these populations.

This research provides valuable baseline information on the current prevalence of conditions in the population. The information can be used in future to monitor temporal health status trends which, in turn, may provide information on ecosystem health and ways in which changes in coastal waters may affect the health and welfare of humans sharing that environment.

By Dr Emily Lane, Wildlife Pathologist and Angeliné Schwan, Communications Officer, NZG


 
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