Wildlife Biologists and Veterinarians: Need and Mechanisms for Improved Collaboration
Recently, there has been much attention given to the threat posed by diseases that can cross interspecies barriers and mutate into highly virulent forms. We have been deluged by stories on avian influenza, Ebola, chronic wasting disease, mad cow disease, monkey pox, drug-resistant tuberculosis, and HIV-AIDS. However, we are just beginning to understand the complex interactions that occur between the disease organisms that affect wildlife, domestic animals, and humans. Some threats are real, but they can also be sensationalized. Some can be managed and some not. This makes it essential that wildlife biologists and managers work together closely with the wildlife veterinary community to better understand, assess, monitor, and manage disease outbreaks when and if they occur. Both communities bring specialized knowledge to the table—the innovative combination of which is critical to finding workable solutions and to maintain the health of wildlife, domestic animals, and humans. Biologist-managers bring their knowledge of wildlife social organization and behavior, demographics, genetics, nutrition, body condition, and population management, whereas veterinarians bring their knowledge of disease organisms, epidemiology, diagnosis, health, and treatment. The purpose of this paper is to review why wildlife biologists and veterinarians need each other to effectively address the coming challenges. Various mechanisms for improved cooperation are also proposed.