Conservation Medicine: Ecological Health in Practice

By A. Alonso Aguirre; Richard S. Ostfeld et al. | Go to book overview

21
Zoological Parks in Endangered
Species Recovery and Conservation
Anthony Allchurch

The emergence of the scientific discipline of conservation medicine represents a timely response to increasing concerns about new or rediscovered diseases and their relationship to climate change, habitat degradation, and loss of biodiversity. Although primarily addressing issues affecting wildlife and human health, this new multidisciplinary science will have beneficial applications in the environment of captive animal management and may also profit from the wealth of experience in that domain.

Zoo medicine traditionally has considered disease a random process to be addressed through clinical response on an individual basis. This institutional focus on sustaining individual lives may be contrasted with the emphasis on population health favored by wildlife veterinarians (Hutchins et al. 1991). The concept of disease control in zoos through promoting a holistic system of health management is still gaining acceptance and may present unusual challenges that are peculiar to the dynamics of managing small populations in captivity (Miller 1992).

By comparison, proponents of conservation medicine are convinced that patterns of morbidity and mortality in wild animal and human populations may be predictable and consequential to changes in ecosystem health. The naturalistic habitats developed in modern zoos provide managed environments where systematic evaluation and the mapping and modeling of disease processes and host– parasite relationships may be studied in depth and, over time, support the basic tenets of this emerging field (Seal 1998).

Zoological institutions on the cutting edge of wildlife conservation maintain their captive populations of endangered species in support of in situ programs. The zoo veterinary community is presented with excellent opportunities to contribute its skills and services to successful and sustainable reintroduction pro

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