The Australian Wildlife Health Network (AWHN) links, informs and supports people and organisations who deal with wildlife disease, and work or have an interest in wildlife health across Australia. AWHN integrates wildlife disease investigation and health management nation-wide, through technical advice, facilitation, communications and professional support for subscribers to the Network.
For AWHN activities, 'wildlife' is defined as managed and unmanaged populations of native and feral animals; mammals, including rabbits, foxes and pigs and amphibians, reptiles and birds.
AWHN is an initiative of the Australian government. The Network was formed in 2002, at the direction of Standing Committee on Agriculture and Resource Management (SCARM). Core funding is provided by the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.
Federally, the Network is required for human and animal disease surveillance and response, biodiversity, biosecurity, market access and trade needs. The AWHN is complimentary to existing organisations and does not duplicate their operations.
Both agricultural and human health agencies recognise that diseases arising from wildlife and feral animals can be key animal and human emergency diseases. For example, outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) have been seen to cause enormous economic and / or human health impacts both in Australia and overseas, with a number of outbreaks directly affecting wild bird species (incl. for example common pochard (Aythya farina) and great-crested grebes (Podiceps cristatus) - Russia 2006; little egrets (Egretta garzetta) - Hong Kong 2007; mute swan (Cygnus olor) Europe 2007, 2008)(Feare, 2010; Breed et al., 2010; Newman et al., 2010). Wildlife have been identified as the major source of emerging zoonotic diseases, such as HIV-1, SARS coronavirus, Lyme Diseae, and Human Monkeypox (IOM & NRC, 2009; Jones et al 2008; Woolhouse and Gowtage-Sequeria 2005). Other examples of emergency animal diseases with wildlife reservoirs include Foot and Mouth Disease, West Nile Virus, Nipah Virus, and Japanese Encephalitis Virus. Australian examples include Australian Bat Lyssavirus, Hendra Virus, Menangle Virus, various forms of chlamydiosis, Kunjin and mycobacteriosis.
Identifying priorities for surveillance and coordination across jurisdictions can be challenging, especially in a federated system. Wildlife surveillance and coordination is particularly challenging; activities not only require coordination across jurisdictions, but also across multiple agencies, organizations and industries, often with loosely defined stakeholder groups.
Many good wildlife research and policy initiatives are occurring. We need to continue to integrate and coordinate wildlife activities between agencies, recognising the mutual need for sustained direction and focus.
AWHN aims to provide effective information and advice, to allow for better management of any disease (livestock, human and wildlife) that has wildlife as part of its ecology and epidemiology. AWHN activities aim to limit adverse impacts of wildlife and wildlife disease on livestock and human health, and natural ecosystems, to provide better economic, social and ecological benefits to Australia.
AWHN activities are overseen by a Management Group that is chaired by Australia's World Animal Health Organisation Focal Point for Wildlife Health. Wildlife Coordinators in each jurisdiction are appointed by their Chief Veterinary Officer and provide information to support Australia's National Animal Health Information System.
If you would like more on the Australian Wildlife Health Network and wildlife diseases, go to:
or contact Tiggy directly at:
Tiggy Grillo PhD
Australian Wildlife Health Network
PO Box 20, Mosman NSW 2088
P: 61 2 9978 4788
F: 61 2 9932 4376
AWHN recognises the important animal health work of the LHPA and its relevance to wildlife diseases. AWHN would like to thank the LHPA for giving us the opportunity to present this paper and discuss the possible opportunities for further networking.