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Killer of wild cattle still eludes experts

Reasons for the mystery deaths of 24 gaurs last December in Kui Buri National Park in Prachuap Khiri Khan remain inconclusive, as authorities yesterday explained their findings on carcass testing.

Only one carcass (the 15th) was confirmed to have foot-and-mouth disease while 12 other dead animals (as well as one soil sample) revealed the bacterium Clostridium novyi. One carcass also had a virus called infectious bovine rhinotracheitis.

The bacterium C novyi could lead to the fatal "black disease", but Thailand has had no reports of this disease and officials would need further tests to determine if the gaurs died from it, Nipon Chotibal, acting chief of the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department, said yesterday.

Stomach-content samples showed no sign of metal, pesticide, cyanide or arsenic, but some soil and water samples had a slightly beyond-standard amount of arsenic, he said. However, such arsenic traces could not lead to immediate deaths, he added. Nearly all stomach contents were found to have non-fatal amounts of nitrate compound, and there was no trace of the weed Mimosa invisa. The experts also ruled out Anaplasma spp and Clostridium perfringens.

The report by the Livestock Development Department's National Institute of Animal Health also explained that attempts to determine the gaurs' deaths were limited by various factors, including the fact that the carcasses were discovered long after death and lack of knowledge about existing micro-organisms in healthy gaurs.

Despite reports of gaur deaths from foot-and-mouth disease in other countries, the institute couldn't confirm the Kui Buri animals died from it because it lacked information about the disease outbreak and its course. Authorities will now implement urgent measures, including a buffer zone to prevent outbreaks, limited access to the affected area, illness monitoring of wildlife and nearby animals, and the vaccination of farm animals. The park is set to reopen in late May.


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