Golestan National Park (37o, 31´N; 56o, 35´E) in northern Iran is one region that Persian leopards (Panthera pardus saxicolor), being at risk of extinction and categorized as Endangered (EN) in IUCN Red List of Threatened Species inhabit and most road kills of Persian leopards in Iran have occurred there (Sanei et al., 2012, http://www.redlist.org). The ticks are important ectoparasites that can act as mechanical and/or biological vectors of bacteria, protozoans, and viruses. They can spread a wide variety of infectious diseases and clinical symptoms in their hosts (nearly all domestic animals, wild canids, felids, suids, equids, and bovids) (Walker, 2000).
A car accident in Golestan National Park, North Iran, caused the inadvertent death of a 6-year-old female Persian leopard. The carcass was transported to the laboratory of the Department of Environment in Golestan Province.
The body surface of the carcass was inspected for external parasites. Detected parasites were fixed in 70% ethanol pending further identification using specific keys (Walker, 2004). Five hard ticks were isolated from the body surface. According to the keys, they were one female Ixodes ricinus and four Rhipicephalus turanicus (fig 1 and 2).
In recent years, endoparasites such as Ancylostoma tubaeforme, Toxocara cati, Hepatozoon spp. Taenia taeniaeformis, and Trichinella britovi have been reported from Persian leopards (Mowlavi et al., 2007; Ghaemi et al., 2011; Yousefi et al., 2010; Khoshnegah et al., 2012). This is the first report of ectoparasite infestation in a Persian leopard. The hard ticks (family Ixodidae) consist of several genera. The two genera, Ixodes and Rhipicephalus, detected in this study are members of this family (Esteve-Gassent et al., 2014).
Ixodes ricinus which has been detected in ruminants of northern Iran, is a widespread tick that is sensitive to climatic conditions, and occurs in relatively humid, shrubby, or wooded areas. As an infected vector it can lead to ehrlichiosis, lyme disease, spotted fever, and babesiosis in many species of mammals. The adult ticks feed mainly on large mammals such as ruminants and carnivores (Mierzejewska et.al.,2015; Nabian, 2007).
The tick has been reported in wild canids such as red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and jackals (Canis aureus) in Spain and Iran respectively (Martinez-Carrascoc et al., 2007; Razmjoo et al., 2014). Although I. ricinus has been identified in Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) with a prevalence of 6% in southern Spain, during a 30-year survey (Millán et al., 2007). Horak et al., (2000) identified no Ixodes from more than 2000 Ixodid ticks collected from four leopards (Panthera pardus). It appears that ours is the first report of I. ricinus infestation of Leopards in the world.
Rhipicephalus turanicus is a widespread three-host tick in Africa and Asia, especially around the Caspian Sea (Tsatsaris et al., 2016).
In Iran, R. turanicus has been documented on sheep (Northeast) and hedgehogs (North and Northwest) (Gorgani-Firouzjaee et al., 2013; Rahbari et al., 2008). According to Rahbari et al., R. turanicus was frequently found on ruminants in many parts, but especially western Iran from April to May. The current detection of R. turanicus in Persian leopards occurred in the same period of time (Rahbari et al., 2008).
Walker and colleagues (2004) also have reported R. turanicus infestation in 7 African leopards (Panthera pardus).
Because most Iranian wild felids and canids are endangered, knowing whether hemoparasite infestation represents a threat for these animals is important. Complementary information about ectoparasites of Persian leopards, probable zoonoses, and veterinary diseases is necessary to develop disease prevention strategies.
We particularly thank Esmail Mohajer (Dean of the Department of Environment in Golestan Province), Vahid Kheirabadi, Mahmood Shakiba, Masoud Shakiba, for their kind help in accessing road-killed carnivores.
Conflicts of interest
The author declared no conflict of interest