Wildlife culling for disease control: potential benefits and known detrimental effects

Eve Miguel,  Vladimir Grosbois ; Alexandre Caron ; Benjamin Roche, Diane People, Christl Donnelly. In preparation

Knowing how to treat an emergent or an endemic disease in a wild population for the wild, domestic or human health is always surrounded by numerous questions for scientists, decision makers, farmers, or civil society. In a hyper-connected world where it is increasingly asking to quickly answer to health crisis it is important to compile information on patho-eco-system mechanisms for clarifying benefices of health actions in wild population .

Culling wild hosts, a control strategy frequently used to contain or eradicate a disease, has consequential economical and societal costs but for often discussed advantages. We draw up here a framework to follow when the culling issue is debate. We highlight the large range of necessary knowledge to acquire before action on the host environment, the ecology, the pathogen and the human society surrounding the host.  A framework with solid studies and references help to identify all the points to analyze according to context. Indeed a similar action can have opposite results according to the patho-eco-system.

The most trivial example is the badger culling setting up at the same period in Ireland and United-kingdom, where interventions appear to be favorable for Irish livestock with a decrease of bovine tuberculosis incidence and with opposite records in United kingdom. Among the reasons given two stipulated (i) a most profitable landscape in Ireland with cliffs structure limiting the badger dispersion after the cull; (ii) and different animal welfare legislation with an authorization of using snares around culling sites in Ireland.

We also bring insights on complementary approaches to culling such as vaccination or territorial management and ecosystem services. Our framework is fed by four case studies of culling actions with two different situations: (i) one when the pathogen is endemic in the wild population with veterinary, public health and conservation issues; (ii) and a second where the pathogen in emergent in the wild population and with conservation




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