Habitat destruction and poaching are considered two of the biggest threats to wildlife species around the world. But there are other major threats that need attention; and these can be difficult to detect until their damage has been wrought – parasites, viruses, bacteria and other agents of infection.
Disease outbreaks can spell disaster for endangered species, as well as abundant species that experience loss of a significant numbers of individuals. These losses can have a devastating impact on entire ecosystems. But, as scary as that is, there is hope – Morris Animal Foundation is conducting critical scientific research into the diseases threatening at-risk species around the world today.
Morris Animal Foundation is working to make the world a healthier place for all animals by tackling diseases that pose a critical threat to at-risk and endangered species. We have studies underway that are taking on:
- Chytridiomycosis - This rapidly emerging and highly fatal fungal disease is decimating amphibian species around the world.
- Canine distemper – Canine distemper has spilled over into several endangered species, including southern river otters, Siberian tigers and African lions.
- Devil facial tumors - The Tasmanian devil is facing extinction within the next 20 to 30 years due to the devastating effects of devil facial tumor disease, a highly contagious form of cancer passed from one devil to another through biting.
- Plague – The plague is wreaking havoc on western American grassland ecosystems. The disease has contributed to population declines and near extinction of several species, including Utah prairie dogs and black-footed ferrets.
- Chronic wasting disease – This fatal neurological disease of mule deer, elk and moose has been confirmed in 24 states and two Canadian provinces (also recently reported in the Republic of Korea and Norway).
- White-nose syndrome – Since 2006, more than six million bats across the eastern United States and Canada have died from white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease found in hibernating bats.
- Sarcoptic mange - A skin disease, also known as scabies, caused by burrowing mites. This common health issue affects more than 100 mammal species, causing severe itching and hair loss.
- Tuberculosis – A bacterial infection that mainly strikes the lungs, this disease is a significant health threat to a diverse range of wildlife species, including badgers, elephants, mountain gorillas and lions.
- Elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus – An infectious disease of both Asian and African elephants, EEHV causes a devastating hemorrhagic disease associated with high mortality rates in young calves. Although there are symptomatic treatments available for EEHV-infected elephants, there is no true cure yet.
- Morbillivirus - During the last 25 years, marine morbilliviruses have infected whales, dolphins, porpoises and seals worldwide, resulting in the death of tens of thousands of marine mammals. One strain, dolphin morbillivirus, is implicated in a mass die-off of more than 1,500 bottlenose dolphins in the Atlantic region.
You can learn about these studies, and more of our work, by exploring our Research Database. Your gift to the Foundation can help support these and other studies, making the world a safer (and less scary) place for all animals.