PPR virus threatens wild ungulates

A team of conservationists from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), FAO and the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, have published a letter in Science on the threat of Peste des petits ruminants (PPR) to conservation.

PPR is a highly contagious viral disease of sheep and goats that is spreading into new regions, and is of great significance to the livelihoods of millions of small-scale farmers and pastoralists. Repeated mass mortality events in wild steppe and mountain ungulates of the Middle East and eastern Asia is now also raising significant concerns about the conservation impact of this disease.

The mass mortality of over two-thirds of the critically endangered Mongolian saiga (Saiga tatarica mongolica) in 2017 is one example of the threat of PPR to wildlife. The situation is particularly bleak for the saiga antelope, as this is the second known mass mortality event due to infectious disease in less than two years, effectively reversing decades of conservation efforts to limit the impact of other threats, such as poaching for horn and meat.

Mass mortality events in saiga are linked to changes in climate, spillover of pathogens from livestock, and resource scarcity due to increasing competition with livestock for forage. The impact of livestock diseases on other wild ungulates is likely under-appreciated due a lack of systematic surveillance.

The authors say there is an urgent need to explicitly include wildlife protection as an objective of the PPR global eradication campaign.

To better understand this disease, Science for Nature and People Partnership (SNAPP) Steppe Health is gathering a diverse group of animal health and conservation professionals to measure and mitigate the impact of pathogens, such as PPR virus, at the livestock/wildlife interface.

Article: PPR virus threatens wildlife conservation by Xavier Fernandez Aguilar, Amanda E. Fine, Mathieu Pruvot, Felix Njeumi, Christian Walzer, Richard Kock and Enkhtuvshin Shiilegdamba, published in Science (2018) vol. 362, issue 6411, pp. 165-166, doi: 10.1126/science.aav4096

[SOURCE: Wildlife Conservation Society]