With only 2,500 animals left in the wild, the huemul deer is the most endangered deer in South America. For years, the species has been impacted by an unknown disease. Now, scientists have a diagnosis—a significant step toward helping it recover.
In a study led by WCS and the University of California, Davis’ One Health Institute, with partnering institutions in Chile and the United States, scientists have reported the first cases of foot disease, which causes severe pain, swelling, partial or complete loss of the hoof and in many cases, death. Affected animals become unable to move and forage, leaving them susceptible to starvation and predation.
“Considering the critical situation of huemul deer, this finding is a significant first step toward identifying and implementing solutions,” said lead author Alejandro Vila, the scientific director of the WCS in Chile in a statement. “We will continue to work closely with all relevant stakeholders for the recovery of this flagship species.”
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