The OIE considers disease surveillance in wild animals—including both terrestrial and aquatic species—to be just as important as surveillance in domestic animals. Pathogens in wild animals are important to domestic animal health, to trade in animals and animal products, to human health and to wild animal populations themselves, which often have very high economic, social and cultural value. Surveillance especially at the interface of human-animal-ecosystems has become necessary given the increasing interaction between species and the threat it poses to emergence of novel infectious diseases.
The OIE Delegate in each Member country nominates a National Focal Point on Wildlife . This contact point supports the Delegate in tasks relating to wildlife. The OIE also provides capacity building with training cycles for Focal Points. The most recent cycle in the Asia and Pacific region was held in July 2017 .
In Asia and the Pacific region, wildlife has played a role in the emergence of new zoonotic diseases such as Nipah and SARS viruses. There are also concerns about wildlife with rabies. In addition, wildlife is involved in the spread of transboundary diseases such as wild boar carrying classical swine fever (CSF) and African swine fever (ASF) and migratory birds carrying avian influenza.
The OIE Working Group on Wildlife was founded in 1994, to advise the OIE on health problems relating to wild animals (whether in the wild or in captivity). The group is comprised of scientific experts who are world leaders in their subject areas. They prepare recommendations and oversee numerous scientific publications on the surveillance and control of the most important specific wildlife diseases. Currently, this also includes gathering and sharing of the latest available information on severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2, further details below). Working group meeting reports are published online here.
The World Animal Health Information System (WAHIS) is used for reporting of OIE listed diseases affecting animals including wildlife. The WAHIS-Wild system is used to report non OIE-listed diseases affecting wild animals. This latter group of diseases have been selected by the Working Group for monitoring because of their importance for wild animals and also for early warning purposes, to protect human and livestock health. WAHIS-Wild is based on voluntary reports received from OIE Member countries.
Several animal species have been infected with SARS-CoV-2, including captive large cats and farmed European mink. As such, people who are suspected or confirmed to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 should minimise close direct contact with animals, including zoo animals and wildlife. As good practice, appropriate and effective biosecurity measures should always be applied when people have contact with groups of animals e.g. at zoos.
Infection of animals with SARS-CoV-2 may have implications for wildlife conservation. Veterinary Authorities should remain informed and maintain close liaison with those responsible for wildlife, to ensure coherent and appropriate risk communication and risk management under a One Health approach. It is important that COVID-19 does not lead to inappropriate measures being directed at either domestic or wild animals which might compromise their welfare and health or have a negative impact on biodiversity.
Given the similarities between COVID-19 and the emergence of other zoonotic diseases at the human-animal interface, the OIE is working with its Wildlife Working Group, its ad hoc Group on COVID-19 at the Animal-Human Interface, and other partners to develop a longer term work programme which aims to better understand the dynamics and risks around wildlife trade and consumption, with a view to developing strategies to reduce the risk of future disease spillover events.
There is an ongoing OIE Twinning Project between the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) and the Thailand National Wildlife Health Center (Thailand-NWHC)/Monitoring and Surveillance Center for Zoonotic Diseases in Wildlife and Exotic Animals (MoZWE). This OIE Twinning project aims to develop wildlife diagnostic and surveillance capacity for the Thailand-NWHC/MoZWE. It is scheduled to run until 2022.