Falendysz, E. A., Calhoun, D. M., Smith, C. A. et al. 2020. Outside the box: Working with wildlife in biocontainment. ILAR Journal 61(1), 72-85.
Research with captive wildlife in Animal Biosafety Level 2 (ABSL2) and 3 (ABSL3) facilities is becoming increasingly necessary as emerging and re-emerging diseases involving wildlife have increasing impacts on human, animal, and environmental health. Utilizing wildlife species in a research facility often requires outside the box thinking with specialized knowledge, practices, facilities, and equipment. The USGS National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) houses an ABSL3 facility dedicated to understanding wildlife diseases and developing tools to mitigate their impacts on animal and human health. This review presents considerations for utilizing captive wildlife for infectious disease studies, including, husbandry, animal welfare, veterinary care, and biosafety. Examples are drawn from primary literature review and collective 40-year experience of the NWHC. Working with wildlife in ABSL2 and ABSL3 facilities differs from laboratory animals in that typical laboratory housing systems, husbandry practices, and biosafety practices are not designed for work with wildlife. This requires thoughtful adaptation of standard equipment and practices, invention of customized solutions and development of appropriate enrichment plans using the natural history of the species and the microbiological characteristics of introduced and native pathogens. Ultimately, this task requires critical risk assessment, understanding of the physical and psychological needs of diverse species, creativity, innovation, and flexibility. Finally, continual reassessment and improvement are imperative in this constantly changing specialty area of infectious disease and environmental hazard research.