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Article alert: Wildlife health investigations: needs, challenges and recommendations
15.11.2013

BMC Veterinary Research (2013) 9: 223. doi:10.1186/1746-6148-9-223

Marie-Pierre Ryser-Degiorgis

In a fast changing world with growing concerns about biodiversity loss and an increasing number of animal and human diseases emerging from wildlife, the need for effective wildlife health investigations including both surveillance and research is now widely recognized. However, procedures applicable to and knowledge acquired from studies related to domestic animal and human health can be on partly extrapolated to wildlife. This article identifies requirements and challenges inherent in wildlife health investigations, reviews important definitions and novel health investigation methods, and proposes tools and strategies for effective wildlife health surveillance programs. Impediments to wildlife health investigations are largely related to zoological, behavioral and ecological characteristics of wildlife populations and to limited access to investigation materials. These concerns should not be viewed as insurmountable but it is imperative that they are considered in study design, data analysis and result interpretation. It is particularly crucial to remember that health surveillance does not begin in the laboratory but in the fields. In this context, participatory approaches and mutual respect are essential. Furthermore, interdisciplinarity and open minds are necessary because a wide range of tools and knowledge from different fields need to be integrated in wildlife health surveillance and research. The identification of factors contributing to disease emergence requires the comparison of health and ecological data over time and among geographical regions. Finally, there is a need for the development and validation of diagnostic tests for wildlife species and for data on free-ranging population densities. Training of health professionals in wildlife diseases should also be improved. Overall, the article particularly emphasizes five needs of wildlife health investigations: communication and collaboration; use of synergies and triangulation approaches; investments for the long term; systematic collection of metadata; and harmonization of definitions and methods


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