COVID-19 has been found in captive tigers. What are the implications for tiger conservation? Dr John Lewis addressed this, and how the risks to wild tigers could be minimised, in his Wild Tiger Health Centre https://wildtigerhealthcentre.org/covid-19/
Although John tragically passed away in November we are continuing to maintain and develop WTHC. We continue to welcome new applications to access the website, so please spread the word amongst colleagues in your network who are interested in wild tiger health and would benefit from the wealth of information, knowledge and support that John has collated.
The founder of the Wild Tiger Health Centre, Dr. John Lewis believed very strongly that for the project to be successful it must be completely apolitical. He achieved this very effectively and it is something we will ensure continues. For the project to work, and to benefit from the global expertise available, it is essential that vets and biologists from all tiger range states feel equally part of the project and communicate freely and effectively with each other. Through getting everyone to contribute and work together we have been able to share a lot of experiences and identify common problems to everyone involved. Working in a remote conservation project can be quite isolating, and it can be good to know that someone else is in a similar situation!
None of us imagined that we would be working on WTHC without John so soon. However, since his death in November, this is sadly what we have been doing. John set up WTHC with a wide range of contributors and made sure they were all involved. This has made a huge difference to the ongoing work of the project as everyone feels invested in the project and has been enthusiastic to carry on working with and contributing to it. John had also made a succession plan for the project, which has made the transition process much smoother. We all know that to make them sustainable, succession planning is an important part of any conservation project, but it is sometimes difficult to put into practice, especially when there seems no immediate need. So again, John has set a good example to all of us by ensuring the project that he started can continue and is sustainable.
John was always concerned that there was an ever-present risk that veterinary elements could be missed or forgotten when the numerous activities essential for conservation were undertaken. That is why in 2004 he and Andrew Greenwood set up the charity Wildlife Vets International to provide veterinary support to conservation programmes. John then took this a step further for tigers by setting up WTHC and making it accessible to anyone interested in or involved with tiger conservation. The result is a ‘one stop hub’ website where tiger biologists and veterinary surgeons involved in tiger conservation all over the world can immediately access information as diverse as how to palpate the abdomen of a tiger as part of a clinical examination to how to design an effective rehabilitation facility for conflict tigers. The information will evolve as we learn more about tiger conservation, and the challenges it faces changes, ensuring that WTHC is always up to date and relevant.