Efforts to monitor the number of wild pandas started in 1970s, as economic development in China began posing increased risk to the animals. The latest survey, for example, suggested that hydro-power stations and roads significantly diminished the giant panda’s natural habitat.
Despite recent successes, the pandas in China are now facing a new threat: canine distemper virus. Thus far, the virus has killed four pandas in captivity, and according to reports, the virus has an 80% mortality rate among their species. Four other pandas are known to be infected.
In response. pandas in captivity have been transported to lower risk areas, but concern remains high. Antiviral therapy has been administered to some of the pandas, but no specific cure is available. Experts say that the greatest risk exists if the virus were to enter the wild population.
Canine distemper virus is characterized as a serious viral disease with no known cure. It commonly affects dogs, raccoons, wolves, foxes, and skunks. The animal virus belongs to the genus Morbillivirus, in the Paramyxoviridae family, and it is closely related to measles.
Canine distemper is spread primarily by respiratory secretions of infected animals. In dogs, it attacks the respiratory, urogenital, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems. Interestingly, a modified live virus vaccine is available for dogs. No vaccine against canine distemper has been tried or licensed for pandas.
As the effort to preserve and bolster the panda population in China continues, it will be essential for caretaker personnel to aim to prevent an epidemic of canine distemper among the still-recovering panda population.
|A Panda With Canine Distemper|