Temporal and spatial distribution of anthrax outbreaks among Kenyan wildlife, 1999–2017

The burden of anthrax in wildlife is demonstrated through high numbers of sudden mortalities among herbivore species, including endangered animal species. East Africa is home of multiple species of faunal wildlife numbering in the millions but there are limited disease surveillance programmes, resulting in a paucity of information on the role of anthrax and other infectious diseases on declining wildlife populations in the region. We reviewed historical data on anthrax outbreaks from Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) spanning from 1999 to 2017 in Kenya to determine the burden, characteristics and spatial distribution of anthrax outbreaks. A total of 51 anthrax outbreaks associated with 1014 animal deaths were reported across 20 of 60 wildlife conservation areas located in six of the seven agro-ecological zones. Overall, 67% of the outbreaks were reported during the dry seasons, affecting 24 different wildlife species. Over 90% (22 of 24) of the affected species were herbivore, including 12 grazers, five browsers and five mixed grazers and browsers. Buffaloes (23.5%), black rhinos (21.6%) and elephants (17.6%) were the most frequently affected species. Our findings demonstrate the extensive geographic distribution of wildlife anthrax in the country, making it one of the important infectious diseases that threaten wildlife conservation.