The WCS is active in the conservation of both wildlife and habitats (www.wcs.org) through the development and application of science, production of educational material, support for conservation programs, and management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks. Its overriding objective is to increase public awareness and to cultivate support for wildlife and wild habitat conservation and management.
The organization uses a science-based approach to conservation, which requires monitoring change that occurs within nature, the analysis and interpretation of data, and discussing the implication of observed change. The very nature of this work requires a population-based approach to the science. Animal population size and density, the interaction between populations (including humans), and the impact of wild resource degradation combine to produce a vision of the future.
The WCS has a Science Resource Center (SRC) that focuses on population biology, ecology, and genetics to help develop and support conservation strategies for endangered species. Animal disease is just one of many factors affecting species survival.
Organizations with expertise in wildlife need to play an increasingly greater role in disease surveillance because they primarily view disease within an ecological framework—equal emphasis applies to host, agent, and environment when describing disease. This approach allows further understanding of the factors that result in disease equilibrium and, therefore, gives further insight into the causes of disease outbreaks or the spillover of disease into new hosts.
The WCS has already played a significant role in human disease surveillance. The WCS and Programme de Conservation et Utilisation Rationelle des Ecosystémes Forestiers en Afrique Centrale combined with local Gabon and Republic of Congo authorities to undertake surveillance of wild animal carcasses for Ebola virus as a predictor of possible human Ebola disease outbreaks. This monitoring program found evidence of Ebola virus in wild animals before five separate human outbreaks and alerted human authorities before two of the human outbreaks occurred (Rouqet et al., 2005).
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