Haemogregarines are a group of intracellular blood parasites reported in reptiles, other vertebrate taxa including mammals and fish, and haematophagous invertebrates. Information on prevalence, biodiversity, and host-specificity of haemogregarines of tortoises in Nigeria are scarce. A total of 120 African hinge-back tortoises (Kinixys belliana, n=70, and K. homeana, n=50) were bought from the Wildlife and Herbal Market in Ibadan, Nigeria. Blood was withdrawn via the subcarapacial sinuses of each tortoise. The prevalence and parasite intensity of haemogregarine infection was determined using a light microscope, and parasite species were determined by PCR using HepF300 and HepR900 primers. A sequence of 654 base pairs (bp; Hepatozoon cf. fitzsimonsi) from the study aligned with published 18SrRNA and closely related with a similarity of 97.38% to Hepatozoon fitzsimonsi sequenced from Kinixys zobensis in South Africa. Overall prevalence of haemogregarines was 53.33% from light microcopy and 75.83% from PCR, which is considered very high. Higher prevalence and mean±SD parasite intensity were recorded for K. belliana (82.89%, 0.29%) than for K. homeana (66.00%, 0.26%). Prevalence rates and parasite intensities of haemogregarines were significantly higher in wet than in dry seasons. The differences in prevalence and intensity between and within species may be due to habitat characteristics, feeding habits of vectors and hosts, seasons, and vector abundance.
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Vol. 58 • No. 4