24. Endoparasite BOP 2004

European Association of Zoo- and Wildlife Veterinarians (EAZWV)

5th scientific meeting,  May  19 – 23 – 2004, Ebeltoft. Denmark.

Endoparasite management in captive birds of paradise at al wabra wildlife preservation

J. Schulz, S.B. Jensen and  S. Hammer


Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation, P.O. Box 44069, Doha, State of Qatar; alwabra@qatar.net.qa



Extended abstract

Even though Birds of Paradise (BoP) are well known as spectacular animals, they are only kept in a few facilities worldwide. Therefore, information on diseases – including endoparasites in captive BoP – is scarce. Our facility is currently housing more than 70 BoP of six different species; the animals are kept individually or in pairs in large aviaries in six different houses with soil ground and tropical vegetation, with a small attached concrete-floored feeding cage; successful breeding has been achieved (2). Since 2001, faecal samples of individuals/pairs were examined for parasites with increasing frequency till 2003 a monthly routine screening was established, using a standard flotation technique and microscopic examination. Findings were documented in a semi-quantitative way (0, +, ++, +++, ++++). All examinations were performed by the same investigator.

The percentage of positive samples decreased during the last three years (2001: 59.3%, n=59; 2002: 36.6%, n=290; 2003: 25.7%, n=962). The main findings were capillaria, coccidian, railletina cestodes, and various other nematodes. Among the positive samples, the percentage of coccidian was relatively constant throughout the three years (45.7, 37.7 and 45.7%), whereas that of capillaria was declining (62.9, 50.9, 31.2%) and that of the cestodes was increasing (8.6, 19.8, 26.7%). There were notable differences between the individual bird houses. Less than 20 % of our BoP have never tested positive for parasites so far. Birds with a positive result are treated with fenbendazole or mebendazol, ivermectine, clazuril or praziquantel.

In retrospect, it is not possible to decide whether the results indicate real developments in the incidences of parasite infestation in our facility, or whether this shift is due to the fact that in the beginning, only clinically suspicious individuals were tested. This would mean that capillaria infestations result in clinically ill birds and decrease in incidence when clinically healthy specimens included in the survey as well, whereas the opposite would hold true for cestode infestations. Up to now, one major problem in the adjustment of the anti-parasite treatment is the uncertainty whether a positive faecal sample after a period of medication denotes a persistent infestation or a new infestation from the enclosure environment.

Several animal- and diet-related factors make an efficient parasite protection difficult. Like other frugivorous birds (5), BoP have very short gastrointestinal tracts and probably fast short ingesta passage rates. This could make oral medication less effective and necessitate higher dosages than in other bird species. At the same time, overdosing with potentially negative side-effects – such as a fenbendazole toxicity (3) – should be avoided. An enclosure design using natural vegetation and soil ground is regarded necessary for the well-being and particularly the breeding success in BoP (2, 4). While direct contact to faeces might be less probable, such an enclosure design allows the development of parasitic stages in intermediate hosts (earthworms, ants, beetles) which then might be ingested by the birds.



The increasing percentage of tapeworm infestations among positive cases – for tapeworms, an intermediate host is obligatory – could underline this problem. Interestingly, the BoP species most frequently diagnosed with tapeworms – the twelve wire bird (Seleucidis melanoleuca) is reported to have the highest proportion of insect food of all BoPs in its natural environment (1). The impression that the percentage of capillaria infestations has decreased could be an indication that the predominant capillaria species at Al Wabra does not rely on an intermediate host, but this suspicion needs to be corroborated by a species identification of the parasite.

For the near future, such species identifications are planned, as well as controlled treatment trials with different dosages. As a new management procedure, all birds are now kept only in the feeding cages during deworming medication in order to reduce infestation of enclosure soil with parasite eggs, and to allow a reliable control of treatment success.




1.       Beehler BM, Pruett-Jones SG. Display dispersion and diet of birds of paradise, a comparison of nine species. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 1983; 13: 229-38.

2.       Bruslund Jensen S and Hammer S. Breeding birds of paradise at Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation. International Zoo News, 2003; 5: 276-279.

3.       Papendick R, Stalis I, Harvey C, Rideout B, Zuba J, Allen J and  Sutherland-Smith M. Suspected fenbendazole toxicity in birds. Proc AAZV AAWV Joint Conference, 1998; 144-146.

4.       Searle KC. Breeding Count Raggi’s bird of paradise (Paradisaea raggiana salvadorii) at Hong Kong. International Zoo Year Book, 1980; 20: 210-214.

5.       Stevens CE and Hume ID. Comparative physiology of the vertebrate digestive system. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ Press, 1995.

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