Are we facing new health challenges and diseases in reindeer in Fennoscandia?
AbstractA large number of semi-domesticated reindeer is lost every year. Predators are the single most important factor for these losses, whereas restrictions on food availability some years also may cause high mortality. In the past, reindeer herding was challenged by severe infectious diseases, killing hundreds and thousands of animals, and having huge economic and social impact on reindeer herding in Fennoscandia. The general zoo-sanitary situation in Fennoscandia is very favourable for the time being, but reindeer herding is sometimes challenged by disease outbreaks, and diseases play an important role for survival and fitness of reindeer. Reindeer herding is also facing changes and challenges, which also may impact reindeer health and the disease status. Introduction of infectious agents not commonly present in the reindeer population may take place through import of animals, as well as by contact between reindeer, livestock and wildlife. Further, changes in the herding, such as increased feeding, transport, size of herds, animal density and stress load on the animals, may affect the animals ability to cope with infectious diseases. Also changes in weather conditions and climate, such as increased precipitation and mean temperature, may over time lead to restricted availability of pastures, changes in vegetation and changed conditions for parasites and insect vectors. These changes might be especially important for the reproductive success, including fitness of the calves during their first winter. To be able to cope with these changes and their potential impact on reindeer health, increased efforts should be made to gather reference data on health and disease parameters from the different reindeer herding districts, along with epidemiological risk factor analysis. This would increase the ability for the reindeer herding to cope with changes and to continue to produce quality meat products for the market.
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