Disease in wild animals is becoming increasingly recognised as an important problem for wildlife conservation. As wild places shrink and human populations expand, grazing animals such as cattle and goats, and domestic cats and dogs, are increasingly found in wild landscapes and even protected areas. Humans also transport live animals of all kinds around the world for trade purposes. As a result, diseases such as bovine tuberculosis and canine distemper move easily between wild and domestic animals, and pathogens such as the chytrid fungus responsible for many amphibian declines are spread from one continent to another.
ZSL works in many countries and on a wide variety of projects to address these problems. The expertise and experience of the vets that care for all of the animals in ZSL London and Whipsnade zoos can be used by, or passed on to, those working with populations of wild animals in the field, eg at the Vulture Conservation Breeding Centres in India and Nepal, or in training workshops for vets tackling tiger-human conflicts in Indonesia. Veterinary expertise is also key when animals bred at ZSL – or elsewhere – are released into the wild, and ZSL vets work closely with Natural England to ensure disease risks on translocation and release projects are minimised, and released animals such as red kites and pool frogs carefully monitored.
ZSL scientists are also key contributors to many conservation-relevant disease studies in the wild, targetting species as diverse as cetaceans, garden birds and badgers in the UK and bats and primates in Africa. Transferring this expertise to others who need it is essential for saving the world’s wildlife, and ZSL hosts two Master of Science training courses in aspects of wild animal health in the UK each year as well as training and equipping partner groups around the world. ZSL has helped to train wildlife veterinarians and to establish diagnostic laboratories and other wildlife health monitoring facilities in Chile, Dominica, the Russian Far East, India, China, Ghana and Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands. Also, ZSL works with overseas partners on in-country training to increase the number of wildlife health professionals in developing countries.