Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

It’s in the blood: albatrosses and petrels get checked for parasites at a rehabilitation centre in South Africa

Nola Parsons (Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds, Bloubergrant, South Africa) and colleagues have published in the journal Veterinary Parasitology on blood parasites found in seabirds taken in for rehabilitation.

Six ACAP-listed species of albatrosses and petrels were examined with Hepatozoon albatrossi recorded in one of eight Black-browed Albatrosses Thalassarche melanophrisPlasmodium sp. was found in one of 18 Northern Giant Petrel Macronectes halli.  Spirochaete bacteria were found in a single Southern Giant Petrel M. giganteus out of 27 examined.  Blood parasites were not detected in 17 White-chinned Petrels Procellaria aequinoctialis, two Shy Albatrosses T. cauta and one Light-Mantled Albatross Phoebetria palpebrata.  Infection levels in Southern Ocean procellariiforms, including ACAP-listed species examined, were much lower than in more inshore-foraging continental species.


Black-browed Albatross, phtotograph by Richard Phillips

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Blood parasites are generally uncommon in seabirds, and knowledge on their epidemiology is further limited by the fact that they often inhabit remote locations that are logistically difficult or expensive to study. We present a long term data set of blood smear examinations of 1909 seabirds belonging to 27 species that were admitted to a rehabilitation centre in Cape Town (Western Cape, South Africa) between 2001 and 2013.  Blood parasites were detected in 59% of species (16/27) and 29% of individuals examined (551/1909).  The following blood parasites were recorded: Babesia ugwidiensis, Babesia peircei, Babesia sp., Plasmodium sp., Leucocytozoon ugwidi, Hepatozoon albatrossi, Haemoproteus skuae and Spirochaetales.  Several of the records are novel host-parasite associations, demonstrating the potential of rehabilitation centres for parasite and disease surveillance, particularly for species infrequently sampled from which no host-specific parasites have been described.”


Parsons, N.J., Voogt, N.M., Schaefer, A.M., Peirce, M.A. & Vanstreels, .RE.T. 2017.  Occurrence of blood parasites in seabirds admitted for rehabilitation in the Western Cape, South Africa, 2001–2013.  Veterinary Parasitology 233: 52-61.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 03 February 2017

DMC Firewall is developed by Dean Marshall Consultancy Ltd