CMS, FAO Convene Scientific Task Force on Wildlife Diseases

July 2011: The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) - Animal Health Service brought together a Scientific Task Force on Wildlife Diseases, at a workshop in Beijing, China, in late June 2011, to seek an integrated approach to manage the health of ecosystems, wildlife, livestock and people.

The Task Force consists of UN agencies, professional associations, research organizations and governmental bodies from the US, Australia and Mongolia. At the meeting, the Task Force agreed to enhance research on diseases that have an impact on both domestic and migratory wildlife, of major concern to food security, sustainable livelihoods and conservation. It was noted that understanding migration ecology is key to preventing and addressing the spread of disease and to providing early warning systems. It cited several examples where emergency mechanisms might have played a role, including the case of the critically endangered Saiga antelope mass mortalities due to the infectious disease pasteurellosis, to the spread of foot-and-mouth disease in the population of Mongolian gazelles.

The workshop was held in the context of an initiative called "One Health." The "One Health" approach aims to promote information sharing among government sectors, wildlife managers, NGOs and relevant UN agencies such as UNEP, FAO, the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The Task Force  is modeled after the Task Force on Avian Influenza and Wild Birds established in 2005.

The goal of the Task Force is to identify diseases that have an impact on both domestic and migratory wildlife with major implications for food security, sustainable livelihoods and conservation; and find ways to bridge the gaps between wildlife managers and health practitioners. It plans to establish a mechanism for CMS and FAO member States to respond to the threat of transboundary animal health crises by reporting wildlife morbidity and mortality events.

The workshop report will be presented at the next CMS Conference of the Parties (COP 10) in Bergen, Norway, in November 2011. [News Release]