UGA Wildlife Food Study

25 July 2014

Scientists have long known that providing supplemental food for wildlife, or resource provisioning, can sometimes cause more harm than good. University of Georgia ecologists have developed a new mathematical model to tease apart the processes that help explain why. The study by Daniel Becker and Richard Hall , which has implications for public health and wildlife conservation, appears in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.
Wildlife of many kinds are increasingly finding their meals in human environments, gathering at places like backyard bird feeders, landfills or farms that offer an easily accessible year-round source of food.
As with people, however, when large numbers of animals congregate they can face a higher risk of contracting disease.
A number of studies have found large disease outbreaks following the introduction of supplemental food resources, as in the case of Hendra virus in flying foxes in Australia. Others have shown just the opposite, with disease transmission slowed or eliminated, as with gut parasites in macaques in Bali.
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