The Link Between Captive and Wild Animal Health in Venezuela: Risks Associated with Poor Management
Ex situ management of threatened species has been widely discussed during the last 20 years, where emphasis has been put on the need to define conservation goals for zoological captive populations.1 In Venezuela in recent years, the release of wild animals not within a planned reintroduction program has been a common practice managed by small animal veterinarians and wildlife government officials. We performed an in-depth review of the new legislation for biodiversity management in Venezuela with emphasis on the link that exists between the health of captive animals and the health of the ecosystems where they are released. The new Venezuelan legal frame allows the release of all native captive wild animals from zoos and other ex situ management institutions back into the wild.2,3 These captive populations, slated for movement back to the wild, consist of animals predominantly confiscated from illegal wildlife trade which have often been kept under poor management conditions, receiving little or no veterinary care; all significant risk factors for pathogen introduction into wild populations.4,5 As a consequence of poor attention to information and knowledge generated in other countries, this regrettable release of wild animals from ex situ management centers is a common practice in other countries of Latin America in addition to Venezuela.6 We recommend a review on the current legislation in all Latin American countries (similar to our review of the current status in Venezuela) in order to evaluate the management risks and possible effects of animal movements on the health of ecosystems where they are reintroduced.
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2. Asamblea Nacional de Venezuela. Ley de Manejo de Fauna Silvestre. Gaceta Oficial de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela. 2008;39:070.
3. Asamblea Nacional de Venezuela. 2007. Proyecto de Ley para la Protección de los Animales Domésticos, Dominados, Silvestres y Exóticos Libres y en Cautiverio. República Bolivariana de Venezuela. Accessed 20 April 2009. http://www.asambleanacional.gob.ve/index2.php?option=com_docman&task=doc_view&gid=1518&Itemi d=89. (VIN editor: link was not accessible as of 1/8/2021.)
4. Hidalgo E. Epidemiological Characterization of Infectious and Parasitic Diseases in Captive Wild Mammals in Venezuelan Zoos [thesis dissertation]. Falcon, Venezuela: University Francisco de Miranda; 2004.
5. Rideout B, Lieberman A, Morris P. Disease risk assessment for reintroductions: are we relying on the wrong data? First International Wildlife Reintroduction Conference Proceedings. 2008.
6. Karesh W. Wildlife rehabilitation: additional considerations for developing countries. J Zoo Wildl Med. 1995;26:2–9.