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An investigation into the occurance and impact of Mycobaterium orygis in the greater one-horned rhinoceros in Nepal

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  • Full or part time
    Dr N Anderson
    Dr M Bronsvoort
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

The greater one-horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) occurs only in India and Nepal and is vulnerable to extinction. A significant increase in mortality has recently been observed in Chitwan National Park, Nepal, with 43 unexplained deaths observed between July 2018 and July 2019. These deaths represent a six-fold greater incidence in mortality than four years previously. As the rhinoceros population is closely monitored and there have been no reports of poaching in recent years, disease is considered to be an important factor. The population in Chitwan NP is isolated and vulnerable to the introduction of disease with a potentially catastrophic impact.

In 2015, Mycobaterium orygis was isolated from a dead greater one-horned rhinoceros in Chitwan NP with granulomatous lesions in its lungs. The microorganism is a newly proposed Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex subspecies that causes tuberculous lesions in a range of wild animals in South Asia and Africa, as well as causing disease in cattle and humans. It has been found in wild-caught animals in captive facilities in Nepal, one of them originating from Chitwan NP. The extent of infection of the wildlife population in Chitwan National Park is currently unknown and there is potential for disease transmission to occur across the wildlife-livestock interface in the buffer zone around Chitwan NP.

The main objectives of the project are:
1) Epidemiological characterisation of the outbreak of mortality through retrospective and prospective pathological examination.
2) Characterisation of M. orygis isolates through phylogenetic and genomic analysis
3) Molecular and epidemiological investigation of disease transmission across the wildlife-livestock interface
4) Development of disease control plans and health interventions as appropriate
This PhD project will be undertaken in collaboration with the National Trust for Nature Conservation, Nepal and the Zoological Society of London. It has the potential to directly influence greater one-horned rhinoceros conservation strategy and success.

Other projects available:
We would encourage applicants to list up to three projects of interest (ranked 1st, 2nd and 3rd choice) from those listed with a closing date of 10th January 2020 at

Funding Notes

3.5 year PhD
Applications including a statement of interest and full CV with names and addresses (including email addresses) of two academic referees, should be emailed to [Email Address Removed].
When applying for the studentship please state clearly the project title/s and the supervisor/s in your covering letter.

All applicants should also apply through the University's on-line application system for September 2020 entry via


1. Peters, H., Sadaula, A., Masters, N. & Sainsbury, A (2019). Risks from disease caused by Mycobacterium orygis as a consequence of greater one‐horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) translocation in Nepal. Transbound. Emerg. Dis. (2019) doi:10.1111/tbed.13389.
2. Thapa, J. et al. Mycobacterium orygis–associated tuberculosis in free-ranging rhinoceros, Nepal, 2015. Emerg. Infect. Dis. 22, 570 (2016).
3. Thapa, J. et al. Wildlife tuberculosis: an emerging threat for conservation in South Asia. in Global Exposition of Wildlife Management (ed. Lameed, G. A.) 73–90 (BoD – Books on Demand, 2017). doi:

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