Threats to Wildlife Health
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The health of wild animal populations often reflects the health of the overall environment. Because they are sensitive to seemingly minor disturbances, wild species may present the first indications of disease, toxins, or changes in climate. The animals’ responses can be sudden and radical, but most are subtle, unfolding over years. Thus, long-term studies of a species’ behavior and health status enable conservationists and health authorities to anticipate and react to threats to the health of wildlife and humans.
While climate change, disease, and pollution continue their assault on our environment, WCS scientists are busy investigating their impact wildlife populations and pathogens around the world. They are forming collaborative groups--such as One World – One Health, AHEAD, and GAINS--to share information and to create solutions and comprehensive prevention strategies.
Shifts in temperature and precipitation levels can welcome bacteria, parasites, fungi, and viruses into previously inhospitable areas to infect new species in novel ways. WCS scientists have highlighted 12 pathogens that may become more widespread due to climate change.
Global trade, climate change, habitat destruction, and international travel can make conditions ripe for the emergence and spread of diseases between humans and wildlife.
Once toxins are released into the environment, the food chain, and the bodies of wildlife, they can have detrimental effects on human and wildlife health and take many years, studies, and funds to clear.
From the Newsroom
After nearly dying from eating a poisoned animal carcass, a critically endangered white-rumped vulture was nursed back to health by wildlife veterinarians and conservationists from WCS and Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity.
WCS evacuated five of its scientists from a remote camp in northern Alaska because of a new and unusual threat: a polar bear stuck on land due to climate change.
A long-term study by the Wildlife Conservation Society, the BioDiversity Research Institute, and other organizations has found and confirmed that environmental mercury—much of which comes from human-generated emissions—is impacting the health and reproductive success of common loons in the northeastern U.S.