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Gastrointestinal protozoa and digestive tract parameters of wild South African warthogs (Phacochoerus aethiopicus)

Author(s): Dirk Booyse | Burk Dehority

Journal: African Zoology
ISSN 1562-7020

Volume: 47;
Issue: 1;
Date: 2012;
Original page

Keywords: Gastrointestinal tract | Hind-gut fermentation | Phacochoerus aethiopicus | Protozoa | South Africa | Warthog

The warthog (Phacochoerus aethiopicus) is a grazer and hindgut fermenter with an apparent unique population of protozoa; however, only a limited number of specimens have been studied to date. In addition to having a very low number of protozoal species, little is known about temporal (seasonal) variation and geographic variation in protozoan diversity. Forty-one warthogs were harvested over a two year period (2003-2005) from a wildlife area owned by the South African Air force (Ditholo). Additional samples were obtained from three animals at a farm near Northam (2004), plus three animals from a game ranch (Knapdaar) near Ellisras (2010). Several physical parameters of the digestive tract were measured, i.e., pH, temperature, organ length, weight of organ contents, dry matter, density and digesta in vitro gas production. Samples were collected from the cecum and colon for protozoal counts.  In the animals from Ditholo and Northam, Telamodinium onyx was present in 42 of the 44 animals and was the predominant species. Megadinium aethiopicum was observed in 33 animals and Teratodinium sphaeredon was present in ten of the warthogs. Blepharoconus krugerensis was present in four animals. A single species of Cyclopostidae and Isotricha were present in two separate animals. In the warthogs harvested at Knapdaar, T. Onyx, M. aethiopicum and B. krugerensis were present in all three animals, while M. sphaeredon was present in only two. Unexpectedly, the species Blepharosphaera intestinalis and Charonina equi were found in all three animals. Concentration of protozoa in cecum/colon fluid averaged about 25 x 103 per mL. Conclusion: The larger number of animals studied established that there can be considerable protozoan diversity among animals and that both seasonal and geographic variation occur.
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