One of the first things I wanted to do on arrival at CERCOPAN, was to survey the numbers and types of parasites being carried by the monkeys. This allows the formation of a baseline, so that we can compare the results before and after any future changes, such as improvements in food or enclosure hygiene. It was also good “shake-down” test for the newly updated veterinary laboratory.
Over the course of three days, faecal samples were taken from every enclosure and tested in two ways: Firstly, direct microscopy, which is exactly as it sounds, and is the best way to find moving things like ciliated micro-organisms; Secondly, egg flotation. This combines the sample with a sugar or salt solution, that is precisely tailored to make worm eggs float, while allowing pretty much everything else to sink. It has the advantage of concentrating any eggs in the sample to make them easier to find, but the disadvantage of being a tricky mixture to perfect. Luckily, the CERCOPAN vet nurse, Isabelle, is well skilled in this area and had a perfect flotation solution prepared in minutes. Shortly after, we had our first egg finds and began identifying species of worms and other parasites.
It is important to check each primate group more than once for parasites, due to sporadic egg shedding. Having now checked every enclosure twice, we are aware of the parasite load in the population and have identified the groups that require immediate treatment, and those that just require a close eye in the future.