The health of Australia’s wildlife, domestic animals and people are interlinked. Diseases of wildlife not only impact wildlife populations, but can also spill over into humans and livestock.
Wildlife health surveillance plays an essential role in the detection of emerging diseases, identification of disease outbreaks, supporting emergency disease event responses, and improving our understanding of the epidemiology of wildlife diseases. Wildlife can also act as indicators of environmental health e.g. presence of toxins. The information generated by wildlife disease surveillance helps protect the environment, biodiversity, human health, agriculture and trade.
Wildlife Health Australia administers Australia’s general wildlife health surveillance system, in partnership with government and non-government agencies. The system is based on a network of over 45 surveillance partners, including state/territory WHA Coordinators & Environment Representatives, zoo based wildlife hospitals, sentinel veterinary clinics, universities, wildlife rehabilitators, and a range of other organisations and individuals involved in wildlife health. These partners see over 65,000 wildlife cases each year, representing a very significant surveillance effort.
Australia’s general wildlife health surveillance system aims to:
- identify exotic or emerging diseases and changes to the pattern of endemic diseases
- determine the occurrence and distribution of wildlife diseases
- provide data to improve management of disease outbreaks
- provide data to inform risk analysis, decision making and development of policies
- provide data to support claims of freedom from specified diseases and to meet Australia’s national and international reporting commitments e.g. to the World Organisation for Animal Health.
WHA also administers Australia’s national database of wildlife health information (eWHIS). The surveillance partners report cases into the database based on national priorities e.g. nationally notifiable animal diseases, mass mortalities, biodiversity diseases, zoonotic diseases, emerging diseases, etc. Between 800 and 1,000 disease events are captured in eWHIS every year. Nationally collated wildlife health information is utilised to inform decision-making and policy development, for the management of emergency disease incidents, and for international reporting.
For further information on the components of Australia’s general wildlife health surveillance system, click on the links in the menu.