Wildlife managers consider animal translocation a means of increasing the viability of a local population. However, augmentation may disrupt existing resident disease dynamics and initiate an outbreak that would effectively offset any advantages the translocation may have achieved. This paper examines fundamental concepts of disease ecology and identifies the conditions that will increase the likelihood of a disease outbreak following translocation. We highlight the importance of susceptibility to infection, population size and population connectivity - a characteristic likely affected by translocation but not often considered in risk assessments - in estimating outbreak risk due to translocation. We then explore these features in a species of conservation concern often translocated in the presence of infectious disease, the Mojave Desert tortoise, and use data from experimental tortoise translocations to detect changes in population connectivity that may influence pathogen transmission. Preliminary analyses comparing contact networks inferred from spatial data at control and translocation plots and infection simulation results through these networks suggest increased outbreak risk following translocation due to dispersal-driven changes in contact frequency and network structure. We outline future research goals to test these concepts and aid managers in designing effective risk assessment and intervention strategies that will improve translocation success.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Nature and Landscape Conservation