Tanzania Journal of Health Research

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Vegetation habitats and small mammals in a plague endemic area in Western Usambara Mountains, Tanzania

Njaka A. Ralaizafisoloarivony, Didas N. Kimaro, Nganga I. Kihupi, Loth S. Mulungu, Herwig Leirs, Balthazar M. Msanya, Jozef A. Deckers, Hubert Gulinck


Human plague still exists in different parts of the world, including some landscapes in north-eastern Tanzania. Wherever the hotspot of plague, small mammals seem to play a key role as host. The objective of this study was to investigate the relationship between vegetation habitats types and small mammals in a plague endemic area of Lushoto District in Tanzania. A combination of field survey and Landsat images was used to identify the vegetation habitats. Small mammals were trapped in the mapped vegetation units, and identified. In total, six main types of vegetation habitats were investigated. A total of 13 small mammal species, potentially related to plague were trapped. Results show that annual cultivated crops habitat accounted for 80% of Mastomys natalensis while natural forest accounted for 60% of Praomys delectorum. These findings have shed new light on the diversity of rodents in different habitats of natural and semi-natural vegetations, and agricultural crops in the study area, which is an important intermediate step in unravelling the complex human plague system.
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