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CINEREOUS VULTURE (Aegypius monachus) SSP

Veterinary Advisor – Annual Report 2003



Veterinary Advisor:

New veterinary advisor started officially in June 2003, after acceptance by species coordinator and management committee.


Claude Lacasse, DVM


Lincoln Park Zoo

2001 North Clark St.

Chicago, IL, 60614

312-742-7222 (phone)

312-742-7823 (fax)



Project status:


-         Pathology survey

A letter has been sent to all holding institutions – electronically or by mail.  It requests a copy of the pathology reports for any Cinereous vulture deaths.  Institutional representatives and bird curators are requested to assist this process long-term by submitting complete necropsy reports to the veterinary advisor as deaths occur in collection.  Veterinary advisor will collate and interpret information with a report to all holding institutions by the beginning of 2004.


-         Cinereous vulture bibliography

An easily searched spreadsheet will be completed during 2004 with all citations pertaining to this species.


-         Recommendations for pre-shipment and quarantine

These recommendations should be completed for Spring 2004.


-         West Nile Virus

Serology results of all bird tested in years 2001 to 2003 will be available.  Veterinary advisor will compile these results and recommendations will be made for vaccination in prevention efforts for this disease.   



March 2004


Preshipment guidelines


1)      Signalment – age, sex, origin (specify if wild-caught; estimate age at capture), rearing (parent or hand), studbook number, and ISIS number

2)      Hard copy and/or disc of the complete medical record should be sent to the receiving institution and reviewed (prior to shipment) – including results from all prior diagnostic testing.

Specific areas of interest include:

-         West Nile virus serologic status and/or vaccination status; housing history (inside versus outside)

-         Reproductive history

-         Avian tuberculosis status of the zoo of origin, especially in the vulture enclosure

-         Conspecific or cagemate aggression history

-         Chronic medical problems, including osteoarthritis or pododermatitis

-         Current diet

-         Location and number of permanent identification (microchip)


3)      Permanent identification – microchip identification should be confirmed or placed before shipment.  The preferred location is subcutaneously, on dorsum, interscapularly to allow easy reading without restraint.  The superficial left pectoral subcutaneous tissue is another acceptable area since easier to perform while one person is restraining the bird.


4)      Physical examination should include:

-         Plumage, skin, beak, choana, feet, and talon condition

-         Oral and cloacal exam

-         Ophthalmic and otic exam

-         Body condition and weight

-         Trans-coelomic palpation

-         Uropygial gland exam

-         Cardiac and pulmonary auscultation


5)      Blood collection – the preferred collection site is the ulnar vein.

-         Complete blood count (CBC) – white blood cell (WBC) counts over 25,000/UL should be repeated in two weeks.  If still elevated, further diagnostic procedures should be considered.

-         Plasma (heparin) chemistry panel – minimally including aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alanine aminotransferase (ALT), creatine phosphokinase (CPK), glucose, uric acid (UA), calcium, and phosphorus.

-         WNV serology: history of vaccination should accompany this result.

-         Bank plasma


6)      Fecal analysis

- Parasite screen – direct and flotation (+/- sedimentation) for enteric parasites

            - One analysis if negative

- Treat appropriately if positive, then repeat analysis at 7 and 14 days post-treatment

- Cloacal culture – evaluate for aerobic bacteria and Salmonella species

- Acid-fast screen – collected every 7 days for a total of 3 weeks – should be considered, especially if history of mycobacteriosis exists in the vulture enclosure


7)      Vaccinations – Cinereous vultures are susceptible to West Nile virus and two confirmed deaths have been reported.  The following protocol has been undertaken in this species without adverse effects to date:

- 3 doses of equine WNV vaccine (Fort Dodge), at 2 weeks of interval - 1ml IM in pectoral muscles.

As possible, blood should be collected at each vaccination and submitted to Cornell* for serology testing.

- If the bird seroconverts after the first vaccine series, annual boosters are considered sufficient.

- If the bird does not seroconvert, another series of 2 doses of vaccine, at 2 weeks interval, should be performed the following years until seroconversion occurs.


* College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University. P.O. Box 5786 Ithaca, N.Y. 14852-5786. Phone: 607-253-3900.



8) Radiographs – If radiographs require sedation, benefits need to outweigh the risks of anesthesia.  Radiographs should be considered if any abnormality is found on physical exam and/or blood work.




Cinereous vultures are potentially destructive to their wings when confined within crates.  Mortality from stress and exertion after shipment has been reported.  Interior padding and sufficiently large crates are recommended to minimize such damage.  Fluid therapy upon arrival is also recommended for extremely nervous birds to prevent negative consequences such as capture myopathy.




During a one-month quarantine, repetition of physical examination, blood collection (CBC, chem. panel), and fecal analysis (parasite and acid fast screen – at least 3 samples, at one week interval) are recommended.


Preventive health


- Vaccination – West Nile virus (see preshipment guidelines).

- Twice yearly fecal examination (parasites) with appropriate treatment.

- Yearly physical exam and blood collection – this can be coordinated with annual vaccination.


- Complete necropsy of all dead vultures should be performed, and a copy of the gross necropsy and histopathology reports should be sent to the SSP Veterinary Advisor: Claude Lacasse, DVM, Lincoln Park Zoo, 2001 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL 60614, Fax: 312-742-7823, phone: 312-742-7222,


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Yulee, FL 32097 USA

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