Wildlife Diseases - Essay Example

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The white nose syndrome, first identified in a cave in Schoharie County, New York, on February 2006, is said to be the cause of death of at least 5-7 million North American bats.The paper discovers the direct causes of the disease and its impact on population …
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Wildlife Diseases Number The white nose syndrome, first identified in a cave in Schoharie County, New York, in February 2006, is said to be the cause of death of at least 5-7 million North American bats. By 2003, the disease had been observed in over 120 caves and mines throughout the north-eastern US and as far south as Alabama and to the west in Missouri and into four Canadian provinces. The mortality rate in some caves is reportedly above 90%. The once common brown bat, for instance, has suffered a catastrophic population decline and may become extinct in the next 20 years as a result of the white nose syndrome (WNS) (Cohn, 2008).
Research has shown that the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans is the primary cause of the disease. A 2011 study reveals that 100% of healthy bats infected with this fungus cultured from diseased bats exhibited lesions and symptoms characteristic of the condition (in adherence to Koch’s postulate). The fungus thrives in low temperatures especially those between 4-15̊C (39-59̊F) and cannot withstand temperatures above 20̊C (68̊F). Consequently, it appears to favor infecting hibernating birds (Griggs, Keel, Castle & Wong, 2012).
Some of the symptoms commonly associated with WNS are loss of body fats, unusual winter behavior such as flying, damaging and scaring of wing membranes and eventually death. The disease causes bats to rouse too frequently from torpor/ temporary hibernation and starve to death as a result of excessive activity. Most scientists and researchers, after extensive laboratory tests, believe that the condition is spread primarily through bat-to-bat transmission. Similar studies indicate that healthy birds in cages adjacent to those of infected bats do not catch the disease or develop symptoms. This means the fungus/ causal agent is not airborne and enhances the theory of contact transmission (Griggs, Keel, Castle & Wong, 2012).
The fungus is thought to have originated from Europe because of the resistance exhibited by bats from such areas to the pathogen. They seem to have developed immunity over time and acted as vectors spreading the pathogen to the susceptible bats of the rest of the world (particularly those of North America). Precautionary decontamination measures have been encouraged to minimize spread of the fungus by humans from one area (cave) to another Cohn, 2008).
Diseases, especially of wildlife, if left unchecked can result in devastating losses of our wildlife through death. Billions of wildlife species die each year globally due to disease. In addition, man’s encroachment into wildlife habitats has meant that wildlife is continually exposed to zoonotic diseases from the new inhabitants such as the infected humans they come into contact with. Reduced habitat space also means there is an increase in contact transmitted infections as diseased and healthy animals live close together ((Wildlife Conservation Society, 2009).
Generally, just like humans, wildlife diseases are caused by pathogens. These pathogens can be parasites (such as fleas, mites, flies, ticks and so on which cause diseases such as red water), viruses (causes approximately 60% of disease outbreaks in man and animals such as rabies and Newcastle disease), bacteria (such as anthrax and black water), fungi (such as ringworms), protozoa (such as coccidiosis and trichomoniasis), poisons (such as snake, spider and scorpion bites, poisonous insecticides) and dietary problems (such as malnutrition which lowers animal’s immunity). Other causes of wildlife diseases include cancers, environmental diseases (such as eating plastic bags), congenital diseases (acquired from sickly parental generations), metabolic diseases (such as milk fever in highly productive dairy cattle), allergies and degenerative diseases (such as parts of the body breaking down) (Wildlife Conservation Society, 2009).
Man also invests little time on concerns involving wildlife health. Very little research and concern is invested towards ensuring the health, treatment and wellbeing of our wild animals. It is a fact that over half of earth species are yet to be discovered, named and classified. However, because of disease, most of these (known and) unknown species will eventually become extinct. Practices such as good management, vaccination, dipping and de-worming can go a long way in helping us save our wildlife from total annihilation.
Cohn, J. P. (2008). White-nose Syndrome Threatens Bats. BioScience, 58(11), 1098.
Griggs, A., Keel, M. K., Castle, K., & Wong, D. (2012). Enhanced Surveillance for White-Nose Syndrome in Bats. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 18(3), 530-532.
Wildlife Conservation Society (Wcs). (2009). Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 45(1), 256-256. Read More
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