New citizen science project to help find out more about wildlife disease
The new Garden Wildlife Health project is the hub for all the information you need on wildlife health and disease in your garden and even local parks and nature reserves, and includes other animals such as birds and hedgehogs.
Garden Wildlife Health (GWH) is a collaborative project between the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and Froglife which aims to monitor the health of, and identify disease threats to, British wildlife. Our particular focus is on garden birds, amphibians, reptiles and hedgehogs. For this we count on the help of the public to submit reports of sick or dead wildlife and to send in samples for analysis.
Wildlife diseases can cause population declines and even local species extinctions. They are a welfare concern (especially if they are caused, or exacerbated, by human activities) and some wildlife diseases can impact public health. It is important, therefore, that we monitor trends in wildlife diseases to identify their impact, underlying causes and to identify new and emerging threats. Every report submitted by the public contributes to a national database of wildlife disease incidents. Every sample submitted is examined and then archived into one of the largest wildlife tissue banks in the world. These are invaluable resources that provide a solid grounding to study and safeguard the health of British wildlife. We also create reports that inform government and NGO policies on conservation management and we liaise with the relevant agencies when a possible domestic animal or human health threat from wildlife is identified.
Garden Wildlife Health is funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
The only way to find out what has caused an animal to die is through a post mortem, and the project can help arrange submission of specimens to the vets at the Institute of Zoology for analysis. If you find dead amphibians or reptiles, please consider being part of this important citizen science project to map and find out more about the threats faced by our garden wildlife.
What to do if you find dead amphibians and reptiles
Finding ill or dead animals can be very disturbing, especially if you have had a mass mortality incident linked to a disease outbreak and discovered a number of dead frogs at once.
There are a number of possible causes of wildlife deaths, including disease. You can find out more in our FAQ section.
Although this can be a real tragedy for the wildlife in your garden, there is also the opportunity to gain some knowledge from your experience that can help inform future conservation work by taking part in the Garden Wildlife Health project.
This new website has an online system for you to register you garden and any ponds, and record any incidents of dead amphibians, reptiles, hedgehogs and birds. You can also record any sightings of animals that might be suffering from disease.
If you have dead animals, you can record whether the specimens are freshly dead and if you would be willing to submit specimens to the Institute of Zoology for post mortem analysis. The vets will get an email alert if you do have specimens, and will contact you with details on how to submit the samples in.
You can then use the system to track your samples and find out what caused the animal to die, and report any future sightings through the system.
Find the Garden Wildlife Health Project here to get started.