Distemper, extinction, and vaccination of the Amur tiger

By 25th November 2020November 30th, 2020Conservation Papers


Canine distemper virus (CDV) has recently emerged as an extinction threat for the endangered Amur tiger (Panthera tigris altaica). CDV is vaccine-preventable, and control strategies could require vaccination of domestic dogs and/or wildlife populations. However, vaccination of endangered wildlife remains controversial, which has led to a focus on interventions in domestic dogs, often assumed to be the source of infection. Effective decision making requires an understanding of the true reservoir dynamics, which poses substantial challenges in remote areas with diverse host communities. We carried out serological, demographic, and phylogenetic studies of dog and wildlife populations in the Russian Far East to show that a number of wildlife species are more important than dogs, both in maintaining CDV and as sources of infection for tigers. Critically, therefore, because CDV circulates among multiple wildlife sources, dog vaccination alone would not be effective at protecting tigers. We show, however, that low-coverage vaccination of tigers themselves is feasible and would produce substantive reductions in extinction risks. Vaccination of endangered wildlife provides a valuable component of conservation strategies for endangered species.

Martin GilbertNadezhda SulikhanOlga UphyrkinaMikhail GoncharukLinda KerleyEnrique Hernandez CastroRichard ReeveTracie SeimonDenise McAlooseIvan V. SeryodkinSergey V. NaidenkoChristopher A. DavisGavin S. WilkieSreenu B. VattipallyWalt E. AdamsonChris HindsEmma C. ThomsonBrian J. WillettMargaret J. HosieNicola LoganMichael McDonaldRobert J. OssiboffElena I. ShevtsovaStepan BelyakinAnna A. YurlovaSteven A. OsofskyDale G. MiquelleLouise MatthewsSarah Cleaveland