Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Russian tigers killed by Canine Distemper virus

Domesticated animals are passing on fatal infectious diseases to many wild species
October 2013. Infectious diseases transmitted by pets and farmed animals could be the final straw for many endangered species.

Biodiversity is rapidly declining due to a number of factors, including habitat loss, climate change, invasive species and overhunting. Another recently identified cause is the spread of infectious diseases from domesticated species and humans to wild populations. This month the Society of Biology's magazine The Biologist highlights a range of sources of such infections and the methods we can put in place to prevent them from causing further declines.

Tigers killed by Canine distemper
Researchers studying an endangered subspecies of tiger in the Russian far East and Sumatra recently found evidence of tigers killed by the canine distemper virus, usually found in domestic dogs. John Lewis, from the UK Charity Wildlife Vets International, warns that "as the territory of a species like the tiger contracts and its population shrinks it becomes increasingly vulnerable to stochastic (i.e. random) events like disease. Canine distemper won't have caused the numbers of tigers to fall to the level we see today but it could be the final nail in their coffin."

Research in the Russian Far East found that 15% of the tigers (both from the research area and tigers found in conflict situations) were found to be positive for distemper, with three tigers dying from the virus. In the research area, only 16% of dogs were vaccinated against the virus despite the ready availability of vaccine. Of the non-vaccinated dogs, 58% were shown to carry the virus.

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