Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Red wolf vaccination study at PDZA

We have a guest blogger this week, Dr. Kadie Anderson, DVM at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium!  Dr. Anderson has graciously blogged for us previously on reproductive research that is ongoing through the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan (RWSSP) and Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium (PDZA)

Just like our pets, red wolves require routine and preventive care.  Most animal health programs recommend vaccinating for certain infectious disease and the veterinary arm of the RWSSP is no different.  Red wolves in the RWSSP and wild populations’ are vaccinated to protect these endangered animals against disease such as parvovirus, distemper, and rabies. 

As the field of zoo and wildlife medicine continues to advance, veterinarians often have to extrapolate treatment and management plans from models developed in similar domestic species, e.g. dogs, and apply them to non-domestic canids.   Red wolves have been vaccinated for parvovirus, canine distemper, adenovirus, and rabies on an annual basis without evidence that the vaccines conveyed adequate immunity and how long the vaccines would last.  Recent research showing that domestic dogs could maintain protective titers to distemper and parvovirus for longer than one year (and as long as 3 years) sparked the RWSSP’s interest in determining the efficacy and duration of these vaccines in non-domestic canids such as the red wolf.    

To understand this study, a brief review of how vaccines cause protective immunity is warranted.  It may come as a surprise that the first dose of many vaccines is not protective against disease.  The first dose of vaccine primes the immune system to begin developing a response to the antigen, or disease agent.  This initial response generates antibodies but usually not in sufficient quantities to generate a protective response or titer (amount of antibody).  The second and third boosters of vaccine again stimulate the immune system to generate a larger amount of antibody with each dose, eventually reaching an endpoint (for most animals) which is considered protective.  These antibodies, called IgG, circulate in the immune system for an unknown length of time waiting to react to an infection.
In 2007, PDZA received funding from PDZA’s Conservation Committee to begin a multi-year study to determine whether the vaccination interval could be increased from one year to three years for canine distemper and parvovirus vaccine products.  Facilities from around the nation participated in the study, with the majority of study animals coming from PDZA’s off-site breeding facility.  A total of 32 animals entered the study.  In order to enter the study, wolves must have completed a neonatal series of vaccines and received their annual booster vaccination.  Serology was performed to determine endpoint titers for parvovirus, distemper, and adenovirus on an annual basis.  A positive endpoint titer (considered protective) was extrapolated from that which was considered positive in domestic dogs.  While results of adenovirus protection were unclear due to varying vaccination histories and products used, 100% of wolves developed and maintained a protective titer over three years to distemper virus and ~97% of wolves developed and maintained a positive titer to parvovirus over the three year study. 
Approximately 8 week old pup receiving first series of vaccinations.
Photo: W. Waddell/PDZA

Pup receiving third vaccination at around 12 weeks of age.
Photo: W. Waddell/PDZA
These findings have changed the preventive medicine guidelines for red wolves in the RWSSP, to align with recommendations for domestic dogs, where the initial vaccination series occurring in neonates is followed with a booster at 1 year of age then triennially thereafter.  Increased vaccination intervals reduce handling and associated stress in the wolves, and minimize the risks associated with vaccination.  It is hoped that this information can also be utilized to aid in the management and risk reduction for wild red wolves, to minimize potential losses to infectious disease. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Lincoln Park Zoo projects and #11353

A few months ago we mentioned that the Red Wolf Recovery Program and Red Wolf Species Survival Plan (RWSSP) partners from Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium (Tacoma, WA) and Lincoln Park Zoo (Chicago, IL) received three grants from for projects that will further the conservation of the endangered red wolf.   The awards grants annually to a variety of conservation and research programs worldwide, and is supported by generous contributions from PDZA, Point Defiance Zoo Society, and the Point Defiance American Association of Zoo Keepers chapter. 

One of these projects is to develop baseline red wolf population viability models of both wild and zoo-based populations.  Population viability analysis (PVA) will help us determine red wolf population dynamics and understand trends in both populations, greatly enhancing our collective ability to conserve the species and advance red wolf recovery goals.  As the program grows and faces new challenges, these models can be used to help predict extinction risks and effects of different adaptive management strategies.

PVA working group: David, Nicole, Joe, Lisa, Sarah, and Will. Photo: B.Bartel/USFWS

Last week, David and Becky from the Red Wolf Recovery Program along with Will, the RWSSP Coordinator from PDZA, landed in the Windy City to meet with collaborators at the Alexander Center for Applied Population Biology including Lisa, the Vice President of Conservation and Science, and fellow researchers, Joe and Nicole.  Sarah, the director of the Population Management Center at Lincoln Park Zoo, also serves as an advisor in population biology on the RWSSP Advisory Board.  We discussed the different data sets for the zoo and wild populations and considered various model structures and formats we could use for this work.  

We also got to tour the red wolf exhibit in the Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo.  There are currently three females at the zoo, 11353 born in 2004, and two of her daughters born in 2010. Red wolf 11353 is actually an important wolf in the captive breeding program.  She’s had three successful litters with 21 pups, which are now distributed across 6 different RWSSP sites. Additionally, 6 of her pups were fostered into the wild population in 2009 and 2010.  The Red Wolf Recovery Program is still actively monitoring 2 of these individuals.  Interestingly, one of 11353's pups fostered in 2009 (11737) has since fathered two sets of pups in wild (in 2012 and 2013).  This spring we actually fostered a pup into his 2013 litter—a fostering full circle!

Stay tuned for more updates on this research!

Foster pup with new packmates (11737's offspring). Photo: B. Bartel/USFWS.

A big thank you to Lisa, Sarah, Joe, and Nicole for hosting us last week!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

RWSSP of the month—Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

The Red Wolf Species Survival Plan (RWSSP) is the foundation of the Red Wolf Recovery Program. To let people know what’s happening throughout the program through, we are continuing to feature different RWSSP locations.   

The RWSSP of the month is Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park (Homosassa, Florida). As part of Florida’s State Park System, this area has been attracting people since the early 1900s, when passengers on the train tourists stopped to rest at the spring.  Located just a few miles from the Gulf of Mexico, it is showcases native Florida wildlife, including manatees, black bears, bobcats, white-tailed deer, American alligators, American crocodiles, and river otters. The new Homosassa River Walk and Manatee Observation area encompasses an elevated boardwalk that starts at the park entrance, surrounds the main spring and continues to the Fish Bowl underwater observatory, where visitors can see one of the four resident manatees.
Resident manatee. Photo: B. Bartel/USFWS.
A new Shorebird Aviary at Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park allows visitors to enter the enclosed viewing area for close-up views of the birds and great opportunities for nature photography.

Birds viewable from the Shorebird Aviary. Photos: B. Bartel/USFWS.

Last month at the 2013 RWSSP meeting, we had a wonderful tour of the facilities (thank you Susan and staff!) and also got to see the red wolves. The park is home to three male red wolves, which came from Brevard Zoo (Melbourne, Florida) in November 2008.
Red wolf. Photo: B. Bartel/USFWS.
Please visit their website, Friends group website, or Facebook page for more information! We are grateful to these new partners for their continued role in the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan and send a thank you to all their staff for generously hosting our annual meeting this year.