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Ticks and lions

When we look for the smallest we often see the largest, from ticks to lions.

In Summary

• There are about 900 different types of ticks in nature.

• They carry a number of diseases, including African tick bite fever, tick-borne relapsing fever, babesiosis, and Tick paralysis.

Ticks on a lioness.
Ticks on a lioness.
Image: GARETH JONES

There are times when I look for really small things. Some time ago I found a lioness lying next to a road; she was covered in ticks.

For a moment I tried to imagine life from the viewpoint of a tick. Waiting on blades of grass for their hosts to pass by and give them a “lift” so they could have their safari for “suck”-cess as they feed on the host.

Ticks often repeat the act of attaching to various hosts as they travel around during their ‘safari' lifecycle as they grow from nymph to adult stage to achieve their “suck”-cess.

Interestingly, there are about 900 different types of ticks in nature. They are small arachnids and are therefore not insects but are related to spiders as they also have eight legs.

Ticks are external parasites, living by hematophagy on the blood of mammals, birds, and sometimes reptiles and amphibians. Ticks carry a number of diseases, including African tick bite fever, tick-borne relapsing fever, babesiosis, and Tick paralysis.

Microbiological pathogens can cause serious disease, especially in a weakened host, and can even result in death. One recorded case is the death of the famous lioness “Elsa”, who died in the Meru National Park after fighting with other lions and then, having a weakening immunity, became infected with tick bite fever due to not having resistance to the babesia leo parasite.

Interestingly, various bird species play an important role in controlling tick populations, especially guinea fowl and ox-peckers. So apart from the many more obvious threats facing large predators such as lions, they also need to have strong auto-immune systems to survive in the wild against disease-bearing micro pathogens.

When we look for the smallest we often see the largest, from ticks to lions.

The park is open daily from 06h00 to 19h00 .

For more information on the park you can link to the following websites www.kws.org or www.nairobigreenline.org or on Facebook .