January 22, 2008

African Game - Genetic research project begun
Lone Star Outdoor News - www.lonestaroutdoornews.com
22 Jan 2008
M England
Photo courtesy of Cindy Wheeler
Area: Africa

Talks around the campfire with concerned hunting guides sparked a genetic study that could affect everything from how game quotas are set in Africa to the tracking of disease among its wildlife. . . . “The North American Wildlife Conservation Model and the success of science-based conservation during the last 100 years can be echoed on the African continent by using many of the same principles,” said Gray N. Thornton, DSC’s executive director. Leading the pilot study will be James Derr, professor of veterinary pathobiology and genetics at Texas A&M University. Derr was surprised no information was collected on animals harvested in Africa. “We do it here all the time,” Derr said. “We take DNA samples on everything from rabbits to elk and state and federal departments have all kinds of genetic studies going on. There just wasn’t a similar plan in Africa.”

. . . “There are no natural populations of these animals anymore,” Derr said. “They’re supplemented, moved around and so on. Now we have the technology that will allow us to know what is going on in these populations so we can be better managers.” Besides documenting the size, sex, weight and age of harvested animals, the genetics study will help determine such things as whether inbreeding is a problem for a particular population of lion, Cape buffalo or rhino and so on. It can also alert scientists to what role disease plays in the decline of wildlife. For example, many professional hunters believe tuberculosis may be hitting African wildlife hard. “They’re finding that Cape buffalo and many of the lions harvested have tuberculosis,” Easter said. “It could be contributing more to the dwindle of the populations than hunting. There’s a real possibility without this project going forward that some species could be facing extinction.”

Birds in Great Salt Lake Felled by Cholera by the Thousands
The New York Times - www.nytimes.com
22 Jan 2008
S Khalid
Area: Utah United States

Some of the birds flew upside down or threw their heads back between their wings. Some fell out of the sky. Others tried to land a foot or more above the water, or swam in circles when they got there. And then they died. The birds — eared grebes, ruddy ducks, California gulls and northern shovelers, about 15,000 in all — have been discovered over the past month on the shores of the Great Salt Lake in Utah. According to the United States Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center, they died from avian cholera.

The disease is not new to the West, but the recent outbreak was especially potent, said Tom Aldrich, an expert at the Utah division of wildlife resources. It flourishes in cold weather — last November was the coldest on record, Mr. Aldrich said — and rapidly spreads when there are concentrated populations of birds with diminished food resources. Avian cholera, caused by the bacterium Pasteurella multocida, is the most prevalent infectious disease among wild North American waterfowl. It was first reported in this country in the 1940s and has cropped up every few years in recent decades. In 1994, it killed 10,000 birds in the Great Salt Lake.

Researchers study feathers to help military battle bird strikes
Dayton Daily News (Posted by www.ohio.com)
21 Jan 2008
Area: United States

Researchers who spend their workdays in a room filled with hundreds of thousands of bird carcasses are working to helping reduce one of the deadliest threats to Air Force planes _ collisions with birds. Ohio native Marcy Heacker-Skeans, who grew up in suburban Clayton, is one of three researchers who work in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History's Feather Identification Lab. In the Washington, D.C., room filled floor-to-ceiling with about 650,000 bird carcasses preserved as early as the 1860s, she matches feathers and bird remains scraped off military and civilian aircraft with feathers from the Smithsonian's massive collection and images in her "Sibley Guide to Birds." The Air Force estimates it loses about $35 million annually to strikes by birds, and the results can be deadly.

For example, investigators believe the 1995 crash of an AWACS military surveillance plane near Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska that claimed the lives of 24 American and Canadian fliers was caused when several geese were sucked into the engines. By finding out which birds collided with which planes in which circumstances, Heacker-Skeans gives wildlife biologists at airfields crucial information they use to try to prevent it from happening again. The research has helped spur the Air Force and the Federal Aviation Administration to make physical adjustments to aircraft, such as thickening canopies. Thanks to the research, airfield biologists mow grass, fill in wetlands and take other precautions aimed at encouraging birds to fly elsewhere.

A Pandemic That Wasn’t but Might Be
The New York Times - www.nytimes.com
22 Jan 2008
DG McNeil Jr.
Photo courtesy of Parth Sanyal/Reuters

Last year, for the first time since avian flu emerged as a global threat, the number of human cases was down from the year before. As the illness receded, the scary headlines — with their warnings of a pandemic that could kill 150 million people — all but vanished. But avian flu has not gone away. Nor has it become less lethal or less widespread in birds. Experts argue that preparations against it have to continue, even if the virus’s failure to mutate into a pandemic strain has given the world more breathing room.

. . . Dr. Henry L. Niman, a biochemist in Pittsburgh whose Web site tracks mutations, argues that there is a separate reservoir in wild birds that extends across Eurasia. Late each fall, fresh outbreaks appear across Europe and down into the Middle East as geese and swans migrate from Asia toward Africa. In December, dying birds were found in Poland and Russia, in Saudi Arabia and even in a kindergarten petting zoo in Israel. On Jan. 8, it reached one of England’s most famous swan-breeding grounds, the Abbotsbury Swannery, which has been around since the 11th century. The Western Hemisphere is in less danger, according to a study published in the journal PloS Pathogens, which analyzed viruses found in migratory birds sampled from 2001 to 2006 in Alberta and along the Jersey Shore. It found that none carried whole viruses from Eurasian bird pathways.

Badger culls urged for bovine TB
BBC News - news.bbc.co.uk
22 Jan 2008
Area: Wales United Kingdom

Badger culls should be part of a "holistic" approach to tackling bovine tuberculosis (TB) in Wales, according to Assembly Members. There was a "real link" between TB in cattle and the disease in wildlife, said the report. But the RSPCA said a cull would make no meaningful contribution to the problem. Although broadly welcoming the report, the Badger Trust Cymru said a cull would have "no scientific validity and will serve no useful purpose". The report into controlling the disease in cattle was undertaken by the assembly's rural development sub committee.

Their findings concluded that only a combination of increased on-farm biosecurity, the control of TB in the wildlife population and the accurate identification of reactors would control the disease. Animals who test positive as a bovine TB reactor means they may have come into contact with the disease and under government rules, these cattle must be shot. Annual testing of cattle was one of the recommendations made in the report, and the report also stressed the importance of farmers and wildlife groups "taking ownership" of the problem. The committee urged the assembly government to review the extent of its powers and if more were needed to implement their recommended approach to tackling bovine TB, they should seek them urgently.



Great Basin wildlife disease concerns [PDF]
In: Chambers, Jeanne C.; Devoe, Nora; Evenden, Angela, eds. Collaborative management and research in the Great Basin - examining the issues and developing a framework for action. Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-204. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. p. 42-44.
R Mason

The elk PRNP codon 132 polymorphism controls cervid and scrapie prion propagation [online abstract only]
J Gen Virol. 2008 Feb; 89(Pt 2): 598-608
KM Green et al.

Veterinary Parasitology - 14 Feb 2008
Volume 151 (Issue 2-4)

Veterinary Parasitology - Articles in Press

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