Name ID 16
Extract Date: 1994 June
The mysterious killer of more than 60 lions in the Serengeti national park in Tanzania this year has been identified as canine distemper virus, according to the US journal Science. It was an identical or closely related virus - a species of morbillivirus- which killed thousands of seals in the North and Baltic seas in 1988.
The virus had never been known to inflect a feline population until last year when it killed 19 lions, leopards and tigers in two Californian wild animal parks. But Max J V Appel, a virologist at Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine and a specialist on morbilliviruses, said there was no doubt about the culprit.
The reason for the Serengeti outbreak is still unknown, and no-one can do anything to stop it. The only hope is that those lions that are surviving the virus - and some are - will have increased immunity in the future. The virus is not the only threat to the big cat population. Ninety percent of the lions in the Kruger National Park in South Africa have FIV - the precursor of feline Aids.