Presence of Salmonella spp. was evaluated in yacare caiman (Caiman yacare) and broad-snouted caiman (Caiman latirostris) from a ranching facility in the Argentine Chaco. Crocodilian ranching programs are based on captive breeding of wild-harvested eggs and release of excess hatchlings into the wild. Samples for bacterial isolation were collected from 102 captive (35 C. yacare and 67 C. latirostris) and seven free-ranging caiman (four C. yacare and three C. latirositris) between 2001 and 2005 and from three artificially incubated C. yacare wild eggs. Two Salmonella spp. of known zoonotic potential, S. infantis and S. nottingham, were isolated from captive caiman in 2001 and 2002, respectively. This is the first report for S. nottingham in reptiles and of S. infantis in caiman. Salmonella spp. prevalence varied significantly between years, with a 77% prevalence peak in 2002. Although the cause of this increase was not confirmed, we found no correlation with the type of enclosure, caiman species, or body weight. Deteriorated physical condition of caiman hatchlings due to dietary changes in 2002 could have influenced Salmonella spp. shedding. However, external sources such as food, water, or enclosures could not be ruled out. Pathogenic Salmonella spp. present a risk for human infection. Inadvertent introduction of Salmonella spp. or other bacteria into the environment when caiman are released could pose a threat to wild caiman populations. Prophylactic measures to detect and decrease Salmonella spp. presence in caiman ranching facilities are recommended to reduce risk to humans and make caiman-ranching a sound conservation strategy for crocodilian species.
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Vol. 47 • No. 2