Assessment of potential sources of protozoan contamination between two avian feeding guilds in a conservation area
Occasional screening of food and water quality available to organisms in protected areas could be beneficial to their successful conservation. This is important for areas receiving regular human visitors and exhibiting activities that may be detrimental to ecosystem health. This study determined the intestinal protozoan species harboured by insectivorous and granivorous birds within the Jos Wildlife Park, Nigeria and whether the two avian feeding guilds are more susceptible to protozoan infection through water or food (grass seeds and insects). Special boxes were used to collect faecal samples from trapped birds. Samples were later analysed in the laboratory for protozoans. Both food and water utilised by the birds in the area were microscopically screened. The composition and abundance of intestinal protozoans between the two feeding guilds did not show significant differences. However, considering parasite species individually, the degree of infection by protozoans such as Giardia lamblia was highly related to the range of infection sources that a feeding guild was exposed to. The composition of parasites observed in the two feeding guilds was strongly linked to both water bodies and avian diet obtainable in the Park. These observations showed that birds in the Park are orally susceptible to infection with protozoans, some of which have been reported to cause health implications in birds. Thus, any measure to curtail environmental contamination by the parasites may improve ecosystem health and survival of avian species in the Park.