A high proportion of Australia’s wildlife are endemic (found only in Australia). However, 20% of mammals, 8% of birds, 5% of reptiles, 14% amphibians and 1% fish are threatened with extinction. Disease can contribute to such extinctions. Examples that demonstrate the significance of wildlife diseases are:
- The amphibian declines due to introduced chytrid fungus,
- facial tumor disease in Tasmanian Devils, an infectious cancer, and
- psittacine (beak and feather) circoviral disease in parrots and cockatoos, which is listed as a key threatening process.
We have very limited baseline knowledge of the diseases that affect wildlife species. This is because very few wildlife mortality (death) or morbidity (sickness) events have been reported and investigated.
The University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Veterinary Science is supported by the Hermon Slade Foundation to develop wildlife health surveillance in Victoria. This will help build a collaborative network between governmental and non-governmental organisations and individuals with findings reported through this website, and the Australian Wildlife Health Network (AWHN), and available for use in wildlife biodiversity conservation. This baseline information will also be useful in biosecurity policy and management for human, domestic animal and wildlife health - a 'one health' approach.
The faculty gratefully acknowledges the support from the Hermon Slade Foundation, Vizard Foundation and Youngman Trust for establishing and ongoing development of wildlife health surveillance in Victoria since 2008.
Why is wildlife health surveillance important?
Because it interacts with and affects:
- Biodiversity and environmental health, see examples above.
- Human health and biosecurity. Examples include Hendra virus and Australian Bat Lyssavirus from bats, arboviruses like Murray Valley encephalitis and Ross River virus spread by mosquitos from wildlife reservoirs, Chlamydophila spp. (chlamydia), which can be carried by wild birds, and hydatids (Echinococcus spp.), which have a dingo-wallaby cycle.
- Domestic animal health and biosecurity. Many infections can move between domestic animals and wildlife. Eg. Avian influenza viruses, Salmonella bacteria.
How can you help?
Your help with reporting wildlife health events is of great value to us, and we appreciate your support. Please contact us if you wish to discuss this program or have suggestions (the reporting form includes opportunities for your comments, suggestions and needs).