Wildlife is increasingly implicated in new and emerging diseases, many of which can have implications for human health, animal health and biodiversity.1,2,3
Wildlife health incidents are inherently complex; complicated with difficulties such as remote locations, lack of accurate ecological data, cross-jurisdictional or cross-agency responsibilities, unrecognised clinical signs or mortalities and lack of validated diagnostic tests.1
Wildlife is defined as animals (amphibians, birds, mammals and reptiles) that are feral and/or free living. The term does not include animals held in captivity, invertebrates or fish.
NSW DPI / LLS contribute to state-wide and national programs for wildlife health, including administration of a NSW Wildlife Inter-Agency group and membership in Wildlife Health Australia (WHA).
The NSW Wildlife Inter-Agency group consists of representatives from NSW agencies that may be involved in a wildlife health incident. The group provides a forum for inter-agency cooperation, coordination, planning and incident management.
WHA members form a network of agencies and stakeholders across the country to help manage the adverse effects of wildlife diseases on Australia’s environment, biodiversity, animal and human health, trade and tourism. An electronic database, through which wildlife health information is collected and disseminated also supports National Animal Health Surveillance. A NSW DPI representative is nominated as the NSW Wildlife Health Australia coordinator, providing a first point of contact for wildlife reporting within NSW.
In 12 months from 1 February 2016, a total of 251 wildlife health incidents in NSW were reported to WHA via the online database. These cases involved some degree of diagnostics and do not include incidents that were reported but not investigated. A total of 190 of these entries were from NSW DPI.
The complexities of wildlife health incidents cannot be simply defined by numbers of animals affected. To assist decision making for wildlife incidents and provide consistency within and between agencies, a Wildlife Incident Classification Tool (WICT) has been developed by NSW DPI with assistance from the NSW Wildlife Inter-Agency group.
WICT includes questions within the categories of wildlife health, environmental issues, domestic animal health, human safety and well-being, economic impact, community and politics, and business operations.
WICT produces several different outputs. Each question is designated a weighted numerical rating, a category response classification and likely responsible agency (where applicable). It also produces an overall weighted numerical rating, as well as an overall response classification. WICT is designed to be a guide only, and should be used in conjunction with case knowledge, other decision-making processes within the organisation and consultation with other relevant agencies.
Feedback from NSW DPI or LLS staff on the WICT would be greatly appreciated and will assist in its improvement.
Thank you to all NSW DPI and LLS staff who have reported and/or investigated wildlife health incidents in NSW – your contribution to wildlife health is invaluable.
Thanks also to WHA for assistance with reporting numbers for NSW and provision of selected WHA slides for presentation.