Tuberculosis caused by Mycobacterium bovis is endemic in the African buffalo (Syncerus
caffer) population in the Kruger National Park and other conservation areas in South Africa.
The disease has been diagnosed in a total of 21 free ranging or semi-free ranging wildlife
species in the country with highly variable presentations in terms of clinical signs as well as
severity and distribution of tuberculous lesions. Most species are spillover or dead-end
hosts without significant role in the epidemiology of the disease. White rhinoceroses (Ceratotherium
simum) are translocated from the Kruger National Park in substantial numbers
every year and a clear understanding of their risk to manifest overt tuberculosis disease and
to serve as source of infection to other species is required. We report the findings of experimental
infection of three white rhinoceroses with a moderately low dose of a virulent field
isolate of Mycobacterium bovis. None of the animals developed clinical signs or disseminated
disease. The susceptibility of the white rhinoceros to bovine tuberculosis was confirmed
by successful experimental infection based on the ante mortem isolation of M. bovis
from the respiratory tract of one rhinoceros, the presence of acid-fast organisms and necrotizing
granulomatous lesions in the tracheobronchial lymph nodes and the detection of M.
bovis genetic material by PCR in the lungs of two animals.