Strategies sought to control wildlife disease links to farm animals

Researchers meeting in Edinburgh to discuss disease links between wildlife, humans and farm animals have been told that farmers hold “balanced” views on the importance of wildlife and the threat they might pose to livestock production.

According to a poster presentation from three Edinburgh-based scientists, farmers recognise the importance of wildlife but are also keenly aware of the role wildlife can play in the dissemination of disease.

Based on questionnaire responses from 52 Scottish farmers, 44 believed that wildlife numbers should be controlled, with badgers, foxes, rabbits and deer heading the potential control list.  At the same time, however, the responses also revealed that “farmers recognise the importance of wildlife” passing comments in favour of control and balance, rather than eradication.

“This highlights the importance of working alongside farmers/smallholders when deciding on wildlife related matters to ensure that wildlife can thrive alongside agriculture,” concluded the poster’s authors, M. Fraser of Edinburgh Napier University, S J Girling of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and E A Innes of Moredun Research Institute.

The aim of the meeting, which continues until Friday, is to seek new strategies to monitor and manage disease outbreaks in wildlife to safeguard the health of people and farm animals.

“Most infectious diseases that affect people originate in animals, both wild and farmed and understanding how these diseases spread in wild animals is vital,”  the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies’ Professor Anna Meredith told the meeting, which was organised by the European Wildlife Disease Association and hosted by the University of Edinburgh.

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