Despite the devastating collapse of three vulture populations on the Asian subcontinent as a result of their exposure to diclofenac, there is little available information on the normal physiology of many vulture species, including the African White-backed Vulture (Gyps africanus). Such information is needed to fully understand mechanisms for toxicity and to identify and prevent future health problems. The aim of this study was to establish baseline parameters for hematologic and selected serum chemistry parameters for this model species for further studies into the toxicity of diclofenac. Captive nonreleasable and wild African White-backed Vultures were used to determine reference values. For hematology, erythrocyte counts, hemoglobin concentration, hematocrit, packed cell volume, mean corpuscular volume, mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration, and total and differential leukocyte counts were measured. Chemical analytes measured included sodium, potassium, calcium, albumin, and globulin concentrations, aspartate aminotransferase, creatine kinase, and alanine aminotransferase activities. Uric acid and urea concentrations and the urea:uric acid ratio also were evaluated. Values are presented as means, standard deviations, and reference intervals. The serum chemistry parameters selected may provide a starting point for the evaluation of changes in renal and hepatic function; these organ systems are most severely affected by diclofenac. Results were also compared with values reported for G. africanus nestlings, and from these results it is evident that the clinical pathologic parameters are age related. This indicates that the use of nestling values for the evaluation of clinical pathologic findings in adults may be unreliable and could lead to incorrect assumptions.
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Vol. 44 • No. 3