Join Wildlife Health Australia to celebrate the World Wildlife Day - 3 March 2021

Wildlife Health Australia invites you to celebrate the UN’s World Wildlife Day tomorrow, focussing on the central role of forests, forest species and ecosystems to support forest communities and conserve forest wildlife.

Australia’s biodiversity and the natural systems it supports are integral to protecting our unique and threatened species, as well as our way of life and our food and agriculture sectors. But they are also under increasing pressure. Monitoring and managing wildlife health are essential parts of maintaining a healthy environment – for example flying foxes are key forest pollinators as they fly from tree to tree and forest to forest in search of food and roosts.

Southern cassowaries live in rainforests of north-east Australia, New Guinea and nearby smaller islands. Image courtesy of Rick Stevens.

  

An ongoing challenge for Australia is how to monitor wildlife health and disease; integrate information gathered with existing knowledge of health and disease dynamics in wildlife, domestic animals, humans and ecosystems; and use this knowledge to guide the decisions and actions of governments, businesses and communities impacted by wildlife and ecosystem health.

Wildlife Health Australia is working with government and non-government stakeholders in Australia and overseas to help support and build our national wildlife health system (see HERE).

In 2021, Wildlife Health Australia is directly supporting global efforts that underpin the critical nature of wildlife in sustaining a healthy environment. Dr Tiggy Grillo, Wildlife Health Australia’s National Coordinator, is Australia’s World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Focal Point for Wildlife. Dr Grillo provides support for Australia’s OIE Delegate and Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Mark Schipp, and links Australia into global wildlife health networks, including the activities of the OIE and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. International collaborations are maintained via regular communication with the United States Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center, Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative, as well as many others via participation in an international working group on national wildlife health programs.

More than ever the world is aware that wildlife health matters. Join and support Wildlife Health Australia in 2021 to help protect Australia, and the world’s, unique and precious wildlife. Healthy wildlife: healthy Australia.

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The agenda for the UN’s World Wildlife Day virtual events 2021 is here:
#DoOneThingToday to support forest communities and conserve forest wildlife.


How is Australia impacted by the recent increase in Detections of Avian Influenza in the Northern Hemisphere? - 24 february 2021

Avian influenza virus (AIV) infection can cause severe disease in poultry and can also infect and cause disease in a range of other species including wild birds and humans. There are two categories of AIVs: low pathogenicity and high pathogenicity.
 
The main natural reservoirs for low pathogenicity strains of AIV are wild waterfowl and to a lesser extent, shorebirds, with infection typically resulting in only mild or no clinical signs of disease in these birds. Whilst a rare occurrence, low pathogenicity strains of AIV can spill over from wild bird populations into poultry where they can then mutate into high pathogenicity viruses leading to severe disease and high mortality.
 
Data generated by the National Avian Influenza Wild Bird Surveillance (NAIWB) program, which screens samples from wild birds for AIVs, is used to monitor and understand avian influenza in wild birds in Australia. Over the life of the 17-year program, thousands of wild bird samples have been screened with no high pathogenicity AIVs found in our wild birds.
 
The high pathogenicity avian influenza virus strains (goose/Guandong HPAI H5Nx virus clade 2.3.4.4) currently circulating in the northern hemisphere originally emerged in 2014 and has spread with wild birds from Asia to Europe, Africa, and North America. 
 
Unlike other strains, these virus strains have been detected in apparently healthy wild birds, likely facilitating their rapid intercontinental spread through bird migration.
 
To date, Australia remains free from these strains of viruses currently being detected in the northern hemisphere. Studies to date have found no evidence that migratory birds are carrying infectious high pathogenicity viruses when they arrive in Australia. Analysis of recent outbreaks of AIV in poultry in Victoria were found to be strains closely related to those circulating in Australian wild birds, and not imported avian influenza virus strains from Asia or elsewhere.
 
However, the current widespread and frequent detection of high pathogenicity AIVs in the northern hemisphere, notably Europe and Asia, likely means an increased level of risk to Australia, though previous research has assessed the overall risk of introduction of high pathogenicity AIVs to Australia to be low. 
 
Increased awareness and vigilance by Australian poultry producers and wildlife health professionals is advised. There is a need to remain vigilant by:

  • maintaining best biosecurity practices by poultry producers and wildlife professionals
  • investigating unusual and mass bird (domestic and wild bird) sickness and/or deaths
  • reporting any such events: https://www.outbreak.gov.au/report-outbreak
  • continuing monitor AIV strains circulating in apparently healthy Australian wild birds for overseas strains through the NAIWB program.  
  • reporting any unusual signs of disease or deaths in wildlife to: Your State/Territory Wildlife Health Australia (WHA) Coordinator, or the 24-hour Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on freecall 1800 675 888.

 
Further technical information: 

 

First ever national guidelines for managing wildlife diseases released - Dec 2020

If you work with our native wildlife, then make sure you get your claws on the first ever National Guidelines for Management of Disease in Free-ranging Australian Wildlife. Disease can have huge impacts on our unique wildlife.

Determining what to do when a disease affects large numbers of wildlife, like mange in wombats or chytrid fungus in frogs, can be challenging.

The new guidelines developed by Wildlife Health Australia will help everyone from decision-makers to staff in the field, understand the options for managing disease in wildlife populations.

Written in consultation with experienced disease managers and ecologists, the guidelines draw together existing approaches and outline considerations for choosing the approach that is right for your situation.
 


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