The Importance of Disease in Reintroduction Programmes
K.L. Viggers1, D.B. Lindenmayer2, D.M. Spratt3
1Division of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, The Australian National University, Canberra, A C T . 0200, Australia.
2Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies, The Australian National University, Canberra, A.C.T. 0200, Australia.
3Division of Wildlife and Ecology, CSIRO, P.O. Box 84, Lyneham, A.C.T. 2602, Australia.
Disease may play an important role in the decline or extinction of small, isolated animal populations. Disease also has thwarted attempts to reintroduce some endangered captive-bred species. Despite this, the impacts of disease rarely have been considered in the planning and design of reintroduction programmes. A remnant wild population could be decimated by a disease cointroduced with reintroduced animals. Alternatively, diseases that are endemic in wild animal populations could be fatal for those immunologically naive individuals that are reintroduced. We contend that the planning of reintroduction programmes should include an examination of the potential impacts of disease on extant populations and on animals targeted for release. A number of steps are outlined to reduce disease risk and to minimise the probability of failure of reintroductions because of disease.