Vertebrate Scavengers Control Agents of Diarrheal Diseases

Scavenging is a common phenomenon, particularly amongst carnivorous vertebrates. By consuming carrion, vertebrate scavengers reduce resource availability for both pathogenic bacteria and their insect vectors. We investigated the ability of wild vertebrate scavengers to control agents of human diarrheal diseases (pathogenic Escherichia coli and Salmonella spp.) in oil palm plantations in Sabah (East Malaysia). Experimental carcasses were removed by common scavengers (Varanus salvator, Canis lupus familiaris, and Viverra tangalunga), and this greatly reduced the amount of pathogenic bacteria on the surfaces of filth flies collected above the experimental carcasses. Thus, vertebrate scavengers provide the ecosystem service of disease control in oil palm plantations. However, circumstantial evidence suggest that hunting of vertebrates may be taking place and suppressing this ecosystem service. We propose that making oil palm plantations scavenger-friendly could yield great human health benefits for the millions of workers employed in this rapidly-expanding industry, without drastically changing current management practices.
dog scavenging
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