The health considerations involved in captive breeding, re-introduction and translocation programmes are a source of great concern to conservation biologists, since captive-bred animals could potentially transmit infectious disease to wild populations (e.g., tuberculosis in reintroduced Arabian oryx, Oryx leucoryx) and vice-versa (e.g., wild-caught black-footed ferrets transmitted canine distemper to potentially uninfected, captive individuals). It is generally felt that most of these conservation programmes were lacking:
(1) sufficient information on disease distribution and risk in captive populations;
(2) sufficient information on disease incidence, distribution and risk in wild populations;
(3) quarantine systems to prevent disease transmission;
(4) a system to adequately track and detect pathogens.
Because relatively little was known about the diseases affecting the Iberian lynx, actions to improve our knowledge of the main diseases affecting the species was imperative. The Iberian Lynx Conservation Breeding Programme established a Veterinary Advisory Team (GAAS) dedicated to address diverse aspects of veterinary and research management, as well as protocol development. To improve the understanding of the various diseases that could potentially affect the species, the Programme’s main lines of action involve the establishment of preventive disease protocols for the captive population, capacity building of veterinary staff working with in situ and ex situ populations, and conducting research on general veterinary science.
Research projects have helped determine the incidence and prevalence of infectious pathogens in captive and wild lynx populations, determination of normal vs pathological blood values and establishing parameters that point towards a potential renal disfunction in wild and captive lynxes. The results of research, protocol development, and standardization efforts, coupled with dissemination and sharing of knowledge and experience among veterinarians working in the Programme are all contributing to more consistent diagnosis and treatment.