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Tools and techniques for disease risk assessment in threatened wildlife conservation programmes



Disease plays a significant role as a risk factor in wildlife conservation programmes involving animal movements, such as translocation, transportation among zoos or reintroduction. However, the traditional ‘zero-risk tolerance’ approach to the assessment of disease risk in these programmes is unattainable and unmanageable, often leading to an excessively cautious attitude towards the risks that are involved. It is therefore critically important to develop a comprehensive, unified and broadly applicable set of descriptive and analytical tools that can more realistically and accurately assess disease-based risks in conservation-based animal-movement programmes. The Conservation Breeding Specialist Group, of the IUCN – World Conservation Union, has brought together an international team of wildlife medicine professionals to construct a set of qualitative and quantitative tools to assess disease risk. The tools are flexible, intuitive and span a broad range of complexities. These tools are designed to enable professionals to incorporate not only published, statistically valid data but also to make reasonable decisions under conditions of uncertainty, and to capture valuable information from more basic field or clinical experience. Selected tools from the larger ‘toolkit’ are described here, with examples from actual case studies where available.