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Ecology of the gastrointestinal parasites of Colobus vellerosus at Boabeng-Fiema, Ghana: possible anthropozoonotic transmission.


Parasite richness and prevalence in wild animals can be used as indicators of population and ecosystem health. In this study, the gastrointestinal parasites of ursine colobus monkeys (Colobus vellerosus) at the Boabeng-Fiema Monkey Sanctuary (BFMS), Ghana, were investigated. BFMS is a sacred grove where monkeys and humans have long lived in relatively peaceful proximity. Fecal samples (n = 109) were collected opportunistically from >27 adult and subadult males in six bisexual groups and one all-male band from July 2004 to August 2005. Using fecal floatation, we detected three protozoans (two Entamoeba sp., Isospora sp.), five nematodes (Ascaris sp., Enterobius sp., Trichuris sp., two strongyle sp.), and one digenean trematode. Using fluorescein labeled antibodies, we detected an additional protozoan (Giardia sp.), and with PCR techniques, we characterized this as G. duodenalis Assemblage B and also identified a protistan (Blastocystis sp., subtype 2). The most prevalent parasite species were G. duodenalis and Trichuris sp. Parasites were more prevalent in the long wet season than the long dry. Parasite prevalence did not vary by age, and average parasite richness did not differ by rank for males whose status remained unchanged. However, males that changed rank tended to show higher average parasite richness when they were lower ranked. Individuals that spent more time near human settlements had a higher prevalence of Isospora sp. that morphologically resembled the human species I. belli. The presence of this parasite and G. duodenalis Assemblage B indicates possible anthropozoonotic and/or zoonotic transmission between humans and colobus monkeys at this site.