Research in the Society of Biology’s latest joural points to a number of infectious diseases causing issues in the wild.

Domesticated animals are passing on fatal infectious diseases to many wild animals, while infectious diseases transmitted by pets and farmed animals could be the final straw for many endangered species.

According to one of the papers, the cougar is in danger of contracting infectious diseases from domestic cats.Those are the views of a number of research papers featured in the Society of Biology’s latest journal, which highlight a range of sources of such infections and methods that could prevent them from causing further declines.

In one paper, researchers studied an endangered subspecies of tiger in the Russian far east and Sumatra. Evidence was found of the tigers being killed by canine distemper virus, usually found in domestic dogs. Such findings lead Wildlife Vets International’s John Lewis to warn of a bad ending for the species.

“As the territory of a species like the tiger contracts and its population shrinks, it becomes increasingly vulnerable to stochastic events such as disease,” he said. “Canine distemper won’t have caused the numbers of tigers to fall to the level we see today, but it could be the final nail in their coffin.”

In another paper, it was found the mountain lion – the Puma concolor – can pick up a number of infections from domestic cats. Combined with other stressors, such as ongoing habitat loss, says the paper, infectious disease has a potential negative impact on the species’ health and population viability.

A recurring theme from the research is a warning of the implications of restocking wild populations with animals reared in captivity. Hosts raised in captivity, which are continually treated to eliminate infections, may suffer a disadvantage when released into the wild, due to increased susceptibility to infection.

Methods suggested by the researchers to combat such diseases include vaccination in the domestic species and control through the separation of domesticated and wild species, including physical barriers such as fences or the separation of resources used by the different species.

Chief executive of the Society of Biology Mark Downs said: “Global biodiversity faces varied and serious threats, and it is essential we identify and study these carefully. This will allow measures such as disease control and prevention strategies to be based on sound evidence.”

To read the latest journal, visit the Society of Biology’s website.

Image © Art G
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