Wildlife mortality can be a early-warning system for human epidemics. “When West Nile virus swept across the New York City region in 1999 and then, in subsequent years, across almost all of the continental United States, ‘people were finding dead crows and other birds all over the place,’ says Peter Marra of the Migratory Bird Center at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.”
Now the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center has teamed up with the rangers of Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth Conservation Area and the Uganda Wildlife Authority. By tracking local animal deaths with Magpi (formerly EpiSurveyor), they hope to get an early warning of potential human epidemics.
“By having local people keeping an eye out for sick and dead animals we think we have the potential to get an early warning on emerging zoonotic pathogens before they move to the human population.”