2009, pp 241-262
Date: 26 Jun 2009

Human-Mediated Impacts on the Health of Antarctic Wildlife

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Abstract

Disease-causing pathogens are only one of a number of potential causes of ill-health in wildlife. Many other factors may have harmful effects on animal health and should be considered when investigating an unusual wildlife mortality or health event. In addition, infection may take hold of a stressed animal that could otherwise have resisted. This chapter will provide an overview of animal health problems that could be caused or exacerbated by human activity, such as physical injury and exposure to environmental pollution.

The Antarctic is undoubtedly among the least impacted parts of the planet; however, even this remote region has suffered from the activities of humanity occurring both locally and elsewhere in the world. For most of the time since its discovery 200 years ago, the natural resources of Antarctica have been exploited for commercial reasons, such as sealing and whaling. Only relatively recently has it been formally recognised as a place worthy of very high standards of environmental protection. The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, 1991, commonly known as the Madrid Protocol, now provides comprehensive protection to the Antarctic environment. This agreement and its annexes prohibit harmful interference with the native fauna and flora of Antarctica and significantly reduce the chances of severe pollution or other human impacts but do not remove the risks entirely.