Published: Saturday 15 February 1997

-- The king of all animals in the Serengati game reserve, Tanzania, is facing annihilation. Lions in the game reserve are dying in hundreds from canine distemper disease they contracted from pet dogs, said a conservation group on January 13. The disease has already claimed more than a thousand lions -- a third of the total population -- in the national park since 1994, according to the London-based World Society for the Protection of Animals (wspa). Canine destemper, fairly common in dogs, is often fatal to lions. According to findings by researchers, lions tend to contract canine distemper from pet dogs owned by the Masai tribespeople via hyenas and jackals.

On its part, the wspa is sponsoring a three-year programme to vaccinate more than 20,000 dogs in the region against distemper as well as rabies.

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