Wildlife conservation may provide safeguard for humans
Wednesday 20 February 2008
Protecting areas rich in wildlife from development may have a significant effect in preventing future disease emergence in humans, new research has found.
In a study published today in the journal Nature, scientists from organisations including the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) are announcing a major breakthrough in the understanding of what causes diseases to emerge and a recommendation that conservation may be an important means of disease prevention.
The research pinpoints humans coming into overly close proximity with wildlife, through the development of settlements in previously inaccessible areas, as a key factor in disease emergence.
Dr Kate Jones, ZSL Research Fellow, lead author of the paper, commented: “Our analysis highlights the critical importance of conservation work. Conserving areas rich in biodiversity from development may be an important means of preventing the emergence of new diseases.”
Using sophisticated computer models the team analyzed whether the pattern of emerging diseases correlated with global patterns in human population density, changes in population, latitude, rainfall and wildlife biodiversity. The results were plotted against a measure of global effort to identify new diseases to produce the first maps of where the next new diseases are likely to emerge.
Emerging infectious diseases are also a threat to endangered wildlife populations and it is hoped that this research can be developed further to produce a similar model able to predict the emergence of disease in wild animals which would aid the conservation of endangered species.
Dr. Peter Daszak, corresponding author of the paper and Executive Director of the Consortium for Conservation Medicine at Wildlife Trust said: “These maps show that the key threat to public health is where human population growth and wildlife diversity clash.”
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Notes to editors
- Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity: our key role is the conservation of animals and their habitats. ZSL owns and operates London Zoo and Whipsnade Wild Animal Park, carries out scientific research at the Institute of Zoology and is actively involved in field conservation in over 40 countries worldwide.
- The Institute of Zoology (IoZ) is the research division of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL). It is a government-funded research institute specialising in scientific issues relevant to the conservation of animal species and their habitats.
- The study was undertaken by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the Consortium for Wildlife Medicine, the Earth Institute and the University of Georgia. It was funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (Human and Social Dynamics, Ecology), an NSF/NIH Ecology of Infectious Diseases award from the John E. Fogarty International Center of the National Institutes of Health; The New York Community Trust, The Eppley Foundation and the V. Kann Rasmussen Foundation.
- Emerging diseases are diseases which appear in people or move into new regions for the first time.
Dr Kate Jones is available for interview on the animal conservation issues of this paper. For further information, a copy of the paper, to set up an interview or to obtain images please contact Alice Henchley, email@example.com (+44) 20 74496361.