Rabies and wildlife: a conservation problem?
Understanding the behavioural ecology of wild mammals in rabies epizootics is a prerequisite to scientifically sound management of the disease. The principal vectors of wildlife rabies in a region tend to be abundant representatives of the Carnivora. Although the population dynamics of these species may be radically affected by rabies, and by attempts to control it, they are generally not threatened with widespread extinction as a result. However, the cases of the Blanford's fox, Vulpes cana, the Ethiopian wolf, Canis simensis, and the African wild dog, Lycaon pictus, illustrate how rabies and its control can pose grave conservation problems for rare carnivores. Disease monitoring is therefore an important element of recovery plans for rare species which are potential victims of rabies and other epizootic pathogens, and the benefits and disbenefits of prophylactic vaccination merit serious evaluation.