Thursday, July 31, 2008

Wildlife Management - OIE

In a well constructed editorial which highlights the interaction of wildlife with domestic or farmed species, and thus offers opportunity for disease transmission, Bernard Vallatt, Director General of the OIE (Office des Internationale Epizootics) sees 'management' of such reservoirs as essential. The full piece can be read here.
"The role played by wildlife in the world epidemiological situation is widely demonstrated. We also know that animals in the wild are both targets of and a reservoir for pathogens capable of infecting domestic animals and humans. Infections with tuberculosis, Nipah virus or Ebola virus, to name but a few, regularly afflict domestic animals and humans alike, and each of these events sounds a shrill alarm on the need for better monitoring of wild animal health and the source of wildlife diseases."
That would be a 'shrill alarm' to everyone except Defra's high level lobby fodder puppets one assumes? The paper continues:
... it is important to control the demography of such populations which can also serve as highly effective disease reservoirs for numerous pathogens. In this respect, the OIE is seeking to develop standards for the humane control of these undesirable categories of animal populations where necessary.

The vehicle for surveillance and management is the State Veterinary Service of countries, an organisation which has received scant support over decades from our governments - except of course the recent gagging order from Defra's very own 'thought police'.
There is clearly a duty to manage wildlife diseases. We must maintain biological diversity, improve our knowledge of the health status of all animal populations and prevent species at risk from disappearing, while protecting human and domestic animal populations from the introduction of diseases. This relies mainly on the Veterinary Services. A technically competent, adequately resourced Veterinary Service is needed, working with other regulatory authorities and with non governmental organisations (NGOs) in a cooperative constructive manner. This also requires political will and the dedication of the necessary resources for the implementation of programmes and scientific research. Furthermore, the efficiency of Veterinary Services in this field will be increased by various mechanisms of alliances and collaboration with agencies in charge of wildlife protection and hunting policies, and with NGOs working on the same topics. Alliances with hunters' organisations are very useful and important for the surveillance and early detection of wildlife diseases. These alliances are also useful for managing undesirable animal populations.

M. Vallatt concludes "wildlife diseases will not solve themselves". But in the Alice in Wonderland world of Defra, our own State Veterinary Service - now relabelled Animal Health - has been down-sized, demoralised, starved of cash and bullied into submission. Not an ideal way to form 'constructive partnerships' perhaps. And certainly not the way to halt the onward march of tuberculosis.

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