Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Wildlife disease can put conservation at risk


In their Letter 'Global trends in emerging infectious diseases' (Nature 451, 990–993; 2008), Kate Jones and colleagues reveal that emerging human infectious diseases are becoming globally more prevalent, particularly those originating from wildlife. Even when cases of all other transmission types started to decrease during 1990–2000 compared with previous decades, cases of wildlife-associated human diseases continued their upward trend. The authors highlight the implications for conservation, advocating more monitoring and preservation of areas rich in biodiversity to counter it.

They do not mention the social and psychological effect this proliferation of wildlife-associated zoonoses could have. Such diseases are widely perceived as a threat to humans (see, for example, W. D. Newmark et al. Biol. Conserv. 63, 177–183; 1993). Negative interactions with wildlife tend to stifle support for conservation policies and initiatives. The increasing prevalence of such diseases could stand in the way of the very conservation initiatives that Jones and colleagues are recommending to protect human health.

Widespread disease in wildlife populations could encourage humans to view wild animals as pests, instead of as resources to be protected and enjoyed. Risk-perception research on wildlife-associated zoonoses would confirm the extent to which this shift has occurred. Such research would also identify gaps between the public's attitudes and epidemiological assessments, and would help to gauge the extent of public support for different proactive management plans. This would enable wildlife managers to decide which plans would be the most politically and socially viable, as well as the best ways to inform the public about them.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Evensen, D. Wildlife disease can put conservation at risk. Nature 452, 282 (2008).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing