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Understanding the risks with rewilding

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Beavers have already been reintroduced to parts of Devon and Scotland

By Josh Loeb

The trend for reintroducing formerly extant mammals such as beavers and wild boar into the British countryside could have an epidemiological downside, according to two disease experts who spoke at the World One Health congress this month.

Rowland Kao, chair of veterinary epidemiology and data science at the University of Edinburgh, and Flavie Vial, a leading scientist at the APHA, were both careful to make clear that they were not advocating halting species reintroduction projects. However, both highlighted potentially negative public health consequences from ‘rewilding’ schemes.

By way of example, Vial highlighted the risk of introducing the Echinococcus multilocularis tapeworm with imported beavers, while Kao pointed to the potential for expanding deer populations to act as reservoirs for bovine TB.

Kao, who sits on Defra’s science advisory council, said the civil service was aware that policies aimed at boosting biodiversity and tackling the effects of climate change could also inadvertently provide pathogens with new opportunities to spread.

He told delegates: ‘We’re trying to respond to …

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