In the recent decades, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of wildlife pathogens for wildlife conservation. Indeed infectious diseases have compromised the conservation of many wildlife species worldwide (e.g. Ebola virus in Great Apes, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in amphibians, Pseudogymnoascus destructans in bats, Canine distemper virus in wild carnivores, etc…). Habitat disturbance and illegal wildlife trade, two of the main threats to biodiversity, are also key factors in the emergence of infectious diseases (e.g. SARS-Coronavirus, Ebola virus). There are, therefore, intimate linkages between wildlife health, public health, and wildlife and habitat conservation. Through the Wildlife Health Program, WCS has been at the forefront of the study of such linkages, through integrative and collaborative approaches.
In 2005, WCS started a Global Health Program (GHP) in Cambodia to take part in the surveillance of avian influenza in collaboration with the National Veterinary Research Institute (NaVRI) and the Wildlife Protection Office (WPO) across the country. Subsequently, the GHP expanded its wildlife disease surveillance activities from wild birds to wildlife bush-meat and amphibian under a variety of projects and funding sources (NIH, MCEIRS). From 2009 to 2014, WCS was involved in the USAID PREDICT project, to study the viral diversity in wildlife at key interfaces with livestock and humans.
Currently, WCS Cambodia is taking part in a project funded by the Commission of the European Union, under the leadership of Institut Pasteur du Cambodge (IPC), for the “development of Lao PDR-Cambodia One Health surveillance and laboratory network” (LACANET). This project will contribute to building capacity for the surveillance and diagnosis of wildlife diseases, and understanding the role of land-use change in the emergence of zoonotic pathogens at the human-animal-environment interface.
The wildlife health team is also working in close collaboration with the conservation teams to identify and address disease threats in wildlife populations.