The Saint Louis Zoo will establish an Institute for Conservation Medicine to research diseases known to affect threatened and endangered wildlife and how disease relates to domestic animals and public health, the zoo reported today.
The institute will partner with universities, medical schools, ecologists, physicians, veterinarians and other health professionals to study the interrelated nature of diseases in animals and humans in the context of environmental change. It will be funded through private support and grants.
“Many of these diseases are now common household terms,” said Sharon Deem, DVM, Ph.D., who will serve as director of the new institute. “Avian flu, West Nile virus, SARS, Ebola and monkeypox are all newsworthy today.
"Unfortunately, because these diseases may be transmitted from animals to humans, it is possible that wildlife may be seen as the ‘bad guys,’ threatening human health," Deem continued. "In reality, wild animals are not the bad guys. Rather, growing human populations are moving into the wilderness areas with their domestic animals and also trading illegally in wildlife, which may lead to an increase in infection diseases.”
Deem is a wildlife veterinarian and epidemiologist. She has conducted conservation and research projects in 20 countries within the Americas, Asia and Africa with various organizations, including the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Smithsonian National Zoo and the Saint Louis Zoo’s Center for Avian Health in the Galapagos Islands.