Disease Risk Analysis and Health Surveillance for Interventions (DRAHS)

Pit Scanning - Pool Frog
Scanning a Pool Frog
We are developing methods to analyse the risk of disease to interventions, such as reintroductions, undertaken for conservation purposes, using qualitative analysis and pre-and post-release health surveillance. In our largest project, which commenced in 1999, we work in partnership with Natural England to undertake disease risk analysis (DRA) and post-release health surveillance (PRHS) for the Species Recovery Programme, which conserves native endangered species in England. We investigate the risk of disease to other native species translocation programmes including those run by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.

Disease risk analysis is undertaken in the planning stage of an intervention such as a reintroduction. Translocations, including reintroductions, are important conservation tools, but they engender risk of disease to the translocated and recipient populations due to changes in host-parasite encounters and stresses placed on the wild animal populations. The risk that infectious and non-infectious hazards will precipitate disease during or following intervention is analysed and mitigating measures are proposed. An important objective is to prevent the introduction of alien parasites (harboured by the translocated animal) to native animal populations, because parasite invasions have the potential to cause catastrophic mortality outbreaks in immunologically naïve populations. If the intervention proceeds, the mitigation measures, such as biosecurity, infectious agent screening and therapeutic regimes are put in place, while the health of the translocated and recipient populations are monitored through pre-release and post-release surveillance. Species we have worked with include red kite (Milvus milvus), corncrake (Crex crex), pool frog (Rana lessonae) and short-haired bumblebee (Bombus subterraneus).

When the project commenced methods to assess the risk of disease to wild animal interventions were rudimentary. Using methods available for domestic animal movements, we have developed a qualitative disease risk analysis appropriate for wild animal interventions. If a translocation crosses a geographic or ecological boundary the increased risk of disease is recognised, and post-release health surveillance is used to inform on the risk that unknown parasites will avoid detection. Hazards are evaluated throughout the reintroduction pathway, and these hazards include non-infectious agents of disease, such as toxins.

Contact the Project Director, Tony Sainsbury, Project Veterinarian, Justine Shotton, or Project Technician, Gabriela Peniche for further information.

The Disease Risk Analysis and Health Surveillance Project is a part of the WILDCOMS Network .