Zoos and wildlife parks: a laboratory for the study of mosquitoborne wildlife diseases
Zoos and wildlife parks offer a variety of biotopes and habitats for all life stages of numerous mosquito species and are places of close encounters between mosquitoes, captive animals, wild native animals and human visitors. Since stock animals of modern zoos/wildlife parks are closely observed by their keepers and medically attended by veterinarians, disease agents transmitted to them by mosquitoes will come to attention as soon as they cause symptoms or the animals are routinely checked. In addition to giving medical care to the affected animal, zoo/wildlife park staff has then the possibility to induce epidemiological investigations. The latter should be done in cooperation with the higher veterinary authority or, in case of a zoonotic disease agent, with the responsible public health authority, or with both. Zoos/wildlife parks can thus be valuable sentinel stations for detecting local circulation and transmission of mosquito-borne disease agents and significantly contribute to public health surveillance. Sometimes, zoos/wildlife parks also offer the opportunity to study mosquito-borne infections or disease cases in susceptible non-natural hosts or in natural hosts kept under non-natural conditions or exhibiting non-natural behaviour. These situations allow important insights into disease etiology and pathology as well as into vector biology. With respect to the ‘One Health’ approach, zoos, wildlife parks and similar facilities, where exotic and non-adapted animals are exposed to locally occurring (native or imported) vectorborne pathogens, should gain much more attention regarding pathogen surveillance and public health issues.