Are zoo animal deaths properly investigated?

In the Food and Veterinary Institute Braunschweig / Hanover of the LAVES, tests on native wild animals have been carried out since 1992, in accordance with the decree of the Lower Saxony Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection. This involves both clarifying the causes of illness and death in individual animals and, within the framework of so-called monitoring programs, special pathogen detection in certain animal species on a large scale.

What sounds like a detective novel in the headline is not that far-fetched.

There are more or less many deaths in each district. But what exactly is the cause of death? Cardiovascular failure? But is that the real cause of death? Is there possibly even a pathogen that is dangerous for the population behind it, or is it the fate of an individual animal? Are the hunters who collect the dead animals even endangered?

An examination of the dead piece by experts from the State Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (LAVES) could shed some light into the darkness. The Food and Veterinary Institute Braunschweig / Hanover in Hanover is responsible for the diagnosis of wild diseases throughout Lower Saxony.

All game species are examined, including game birds. In addition to whole animal bodies, individual organs can also be inspected. However, the range of examinations is usually narrowed when sending in individual organs. For example, not every behavioral problem is caused by a disease of the nervous system. Rather, diseases of the liver or kidneys could be behind it. Consequently, the submission of only one organ is always limited in its informative value regarding the cause of illness or death of the animal, while more complex and more precise statements can be made when examining whole animal bodies.

In addition to a macroscopic (unarmed eye examination) and, if necessary, tissue examination, fallen game is checked for the presence of bacterial, viral and parasitic pathogens. Investigations for possible toxic substances can also be initiated by the LAVES staff. The hygiene status of an animal, i.e. its ability to be consumed, is not recorded, however, since the assessment of animal bodies or organs with regard to their suitability for consumption is the responsibility of the regional veterinary offices.

After completion of the examinations, both the sender and the responsible district receive a written report with information about the possible cause of death. For example, whether certain pathogens could be detected and whether increased numbers of fallen game can be expected. If necessary, possible risk potential for the sender (keyword zoonosis) is also discussed. Depending on the current volume, the written report is ready after approx. Two to three weeks. In the case of foxes, this period can be delayed by a week, as the animal body is initially frozen for about five to seven days at -80 ┬░ C to kill any fox tapeworms that may be present. In urgent cases, e.g. B. If dangerous diseases or zoonoses occur, the sender will be contacted in advance by phone.

Fall game that is not yet fragile can be sent to the following address for examination:

  • Lower Saxony State Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety
    Food and Veterinary Institute Braunschweig / Hanover
    Eintrachtweg 17
    30173 Hanover

Except for the cost of shipping, there are no further fees.

For shipping by post or train, the dead or sick game must be packed leak-proof in a plastic bag or the like. To be on the safe side, the box should also be filled with absorbent material such as newspaper, wood wool, sawdust or the like. A completed examination form for game must be attached to the carcass as a cover letter. The writing is also against possible accruing liquids z. B. to protect with a plastic bag or cling film.

The form for wildlife examinations can be found here or on the homepage of the Landesj├Ągerschaft Niedersachsen e.V. It is important to state the location and any abnormalities and to point out any personal contact that took place before the death of the animal (e.g. bite by a fox). A complete address with telephone number of the sender should not be missing.

The freezing of animal bodies or organs is usually not a problem, but it can mean that some pathogens can no longer be detected.

If you have any questions or questions about the submission, please call the telephone number given on the form 0511-288970 call.