A new research system in the Zoological Garden: rock hyraxes and the Leishmania parasite
Cutaneous leishmaniasis is caused by a parasite of the genus Leishmania. The parasite is transferred to human beings via blood-sucking sand flies that sting mammals.
One of the natural reservoir hosts of Leishmania in Israel is the rock hyrax. In recent years the disease has been spreading in the country, reaching new areas. The aim of the research to be conducted in the Zoological Garden is to examine the efficacy of the insecticide Piperonyl in reducing the sand fly population. This research is part of the MSc thesis of Bentzi Horwitz, supervised by Prof. Alon Warburg from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who studies diseases transferred by blood-sucking insects. The research system will be set-up in the cage next to the northern side of the ibex cage; and, as a first step, it will be inhabited by four hyraxes. Following a period of acclimation the hyraxes will receive rodent pellets that contain Piperonyl. The research hypothesis is that the Piperonyl in the hyraxes' blood will be lethal to the female flies that bite the hyrax. Moreover, the hyrax droppings will also contain Piperonyl, which will prevent the development of the fly maggots that feed on the droppings.
A rock hyrax, Photo: Liron Goren