Cattle ticks of the genera Rhipicephalus and Amblyomma of economic importance in Tanzania: distribution assessed with GIS based on an extensive field survey

Godelieve Lynen, Petr Zeman, Christine Bakuname, Giuseppe Di Giulio, Paul Mtui, Paul Sanka, Frans Jongejan
Experimental & Applied Acarology 2007, 43 (4): 303-19
In order to implement a robust integrated tick and tick-borne disease control programme in Tanzania, based on ecological and epidemiological knowledge of ticks and their associated diseases, a national tick and sero-surveillance study was carried out in all 21 regions of the mainland, as well as on Mafia Island, between 1998 and 2001. The current distributions of Rhipicephalus appendiculatus, R. pravus, Amblyomma variegatum, A. gemma, and A. lepidum are illustrated and discussed. Tick distribution maps were assessed using the Weights-of-Evidence method (WofE), and employing temperature, humidity, NDVI, rainfall, and land-cover predictive data. Ground-truthing was done to check correspondence both of the data employed in prediction with land-cover characteristics discerned in the field as well as of the surveyed and predicted tick distributions. Statistical methods were used to analyse associations of the tick species with their environment, cattle density, and other ticks. Except for R. appendiculatus, no appreciable changes were demonstrated in the predicted and observed tick distributions compared to the existing maps that originated in the 1950-1960s. Cattle density influenced the distribution of A. variegatum and, to a certain extent, of A. lepidum, but had no appreciable influence on the distribution of any of the other ticks discussed in this paper, neither did livestock movement. Distinct differences for environmental requirements where observed between different tick species within the same genus. The predictive maps of R. appendiculatus and R. pravus suggest their mutually exclusive distribution in Tanzania, and simultaneous statistical analysis showed R. pravus as a greater specialist. Of the three Amblyomma species, A. variegatum is the most catholic tick species in Tanzania, while both A. gemma and A. lepidum belong to the more specialized species. Despite dissimilar habitat preferences, all three Amblyomma spp. co-exist in central Tanzania, where very heterogeneous habitats may simultaneously satisfy the environmental requirements of all three species. The current study, conducted about 4 decades after the last major survey activities, has shown that changing livestock policies, unrestricted livestock movement and a continuous change in climatic/environmental conditions in Tanzania have brought about only limited changes in the distribution patterns of R. appendiculatus, R. pravus and the three Amblyomma species investigated. Whether this observation indicates a relative indifference of these ticks to environmental and/or climate changes allows room for speculation.

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