Preparation & publication of a reference book on pathology of Australian wildlife species

A project undertaken at Southern Cross University, Lismore NSW, and supervised by P Ladds

Australia's native wildlife  is unquestionably a unique and priceless resource that is increasingly threatened as its habitat is diminished or altered by human activity.  Disease in our wildlife species is often the outcome of such activity, and is therefore an important index of environmental degradation. Early recognition of these diseases is paramount, yet the tools needed to permit prompt diagnosis are in many respects lacking.

There is at present no satisfactory single reference work that addresses the pathology of Australian native wildlife, and there is an acute need for such a reference – by many people working with wildlife both throughout Australia and overseas.  Whereas in diagnostic pathology of farm or companion animals there are excellent texts that one can turn to make a diagnosis, such is not the case with Australian wildlife. In large measure this relates of course to our unique environment and native species. In so far as "traditional" domestic animals are concerned, disease information gained in one country has more-or-less immediate application, word-wide. With our wildlife, however, the task of recognising and describing disease is clearly an Australian responsibility.

The general aim of the project therefore is to prepare and publish a comprehensive text/reference book on the pathology of wildlife species native to Australia.

Availability of such a book, which will be extensively referenced, and illustrated, will greatly assist all who have responsibility for the diagnosis and pathogenesis of disease in our native animals and birds. Ready access to such information is a prerequisite for rapid responses to outbreaks of wildlife disease, particularly in regard to disease control measures that need to be implemented, and epidemiological considerations.

The project consists of three phases.

Phase 1. Literature Review.  During this phase,  an extensive review of the scientific literature is being conducted. Because of the diversity of species involved, and the wide spectrum of journals, Proceedings etc. in which relevant material is published, this phase, as expected, is presenting a difficult challenge.

Phase 2.  Collection and study of original, source, material.  Phase 1 is identifying which diseases are already adequately documented and in which species. Once this is completed, it will become apparent which other diseases, and species susceptibility to them, will require further study – particularly involving  histopathological examination of archival  material.  It is well recognised that a “wealth” of such relevant material is currently stored in state/territory  veterinary diagnostic laboratories,   in other laboratories such as the Australian Animal Health Laboratory at Geelong, within the veterinary schools, and especially at the National Registry of Zoo Animal Pathology, at Taronga Park.  Especially relevant in  regard to pursuing this project urgently, and at this time, is realisation that because of cuts in public sector funding and privatisation of veterinary laboratories, much material in laboratory files is already in danger of becoming displaced or destroyed. This is particularly because many of the pathologists who originally collected and nurtured the material, have now retired or will soon do so. During Phase 2, it is planned that the Chief Investigator will visit these laboratories to study and collect appropriate material.  Once studied, and following approval from source laboratories, it is anticipated that representative material will be deposited with the National Registry at Taronga - thus ensuring its ready access by diagnosticians and researchers.

Phase 3.  Writing & Publication.  Following completion of Phase 2 it is expected that satisfactory descriptions of wildlife diseases previously diagnosed but perhaps not published, will be completed.  The task then will be to begin writing in earnest, and selecting and preparing photos and photomicrographs to accompany the text.

Publications (including information on diseases of Australian wildlife)

Fauna.  Proceedings #36. Postgraduate Committee in Veterinary Science. The University of Sydney. 1976 (Part A) & 1978 (Part B).

Australian Wildlife.  Proceedings #104. Postgraduate Committee in Veterinary Science. The University of Sydney. 1994.

Urban Wildlife.  Proceedings #204. Postgraduate Committee in Veterinary Science.  The University of Sydney.  1992.

Wildlife.  Proceedings #233.  Postgraduate Committee in Veterinary Science. University of Sydney. 1994.

Wildlife in Australia.  Proceedings #327. Postgraduate Committee in Veterinary Science. The University of Sydney. 1999.

Marine Wildlife.  Proceedings #335. Postgraduate Committee in Veterinary Science.  The University of Sydney. 2000.