While the world focuses on the development of new vaccines against COVID-19, biologists are building the case for using vaccines for the conservation of wildlife. Our own research on the impact of canine distemper virus (CDV) in the Russian Far East concludes that vaccination of Amur tigers is a potentially important strategy to avoid extinction of small populations. Historically, wildlife biologists paid little attention to the impact of diseases on wildlife populations. Pathogens and parasites were regarded as a natural part of the ecosystem, which had evolved to co-exist with their wildlife hosts. Large outbreaks were infrequent and it seemed that there was little that could be done to alter their outcome, so they were simply left to run their course. While that approach still holds today, the world and the threat posed by disease have changed. Once, large wildlife populations existed across vast landscapes in numbers of sufficient size to survive disease outbreaks. Today more species are relegated to small islands of habitat that support fewer individuals. In some cases, an outbreak could be the “straw that breaks the camel’s back,” driving these small populations to extinction locally. The tiger is a classic example of this predicament. Once widely distributed across Asia, tigers are now mostly confined to protected areas and surrounding buffer zones. Even in the tiger’s Indian heartland one study projected that even under favorable scenarios, the majority of protected areas will soon support an average of just 14 individuals. Samples collected from Amur tigers including Boris and Svetlaya enabled researchers to assess…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer