Departments of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, and Biomedical and Diagnostic Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA; and Knoxville Zoological Gardens, Knoxville, TN, USA
Zoo quarantine programs are typically based on laboratory animal models. Suggested programs have uniform quarantine periods for most importations (i.e., 30 days), a set battery of tests for broad taxonomic groups (i.e., psittacines), and strict animal separation protocols, imposed regardless of the imported animal’s origin or the existing collection. These models are based on several assumptions: in-coming animals are medically novel (i.e., arriving without any medical history, such as an animal imported from the wild); all in-coming animals represent an equal risk to the collection; and the entire or the bulk of the collection is at equal risk to new additions.
These assumptions are, however, only occasionally true in today’s zoological institutions. AZA institutions are now likely to acquire animals from other AZA-accredited institutions, where they have received good health care and frequently preshipment examination and testing. For example, there is, in our opinion, little reason to treat a captive-born gorilla, with a life-long medical history, identically quarantine-wise to a wild-caught, recently imported non-human primate. Additionally, due to the diverse nature of importations and zoo collections, most imported animals are risks to only a limited portion of the collection. For example, few imported reptiles represent any risks to a zoo’s mammal or bird collection. Lastly, quarantine space is limited, and personnel time to care only for quarantine animals can be costly. In short, traditional quarantine programs can be a considerable expense to an institution, and this cost can be disproportionate to the amount of actual protection they might provide a collection.
A risk-based quarantine program designs quarantine requirements based on the in-coming animal’s history (medical and husbandry), the species imported, and the collection at risk. New imports from the wild or an unknown source might undergo traditional quarantine, but animals with good medical histories and preshipment testing might undergo abbreviated acclimatization periods, without strict husbandry separation. Species or taxa completely new to the institution might undergo quarantine in situ. Our premise is risk-based quarantine programs can safeguard our animals, both those imported and those in the collection, without compromising animal health and with considerably less keeper and facility expense.