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Animal Species Threatened by Disease

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The following sample essay from Ultius will discuss various diseases threatening wild animals. Ultius has a talented professional writers on staff that can assist you with a wide variety of writing needs. Next time you have an important essay due, consider purchasing a sample essay like this one from Ultius and use it as a reference for your own work.

Wild animals often live exhilarating and dangerous lives. They are constantly exposed to the elements and predators, constantly having to survive and protect themselves from dangerous threats. While human-driven factors like hunting and habitat loss have had devastating effects on animal populations, this sample essay from Ultius will explore the much quieter danger threatening their numbers. Disease has the potential to drastically effect animal populations and cause them to significantly decrease.

Siberian Tigers Threatened by Distemper

Canine distemper is well-known among dog owners, as it has very serious side effects and no known cure. This viral disease is very easily passed between animals through the air or any brief contact. The virus will first appear as a fever but quickly becomes much more threatening. Though its name would suggest otherwise, canine distemper does not only affect dogs. Various carnivores have contracted canine distemper, including foxes, wolves, and even big cats. One species that has been particularly affected by this disease is the Siberian tiger. 

Symptoms of Canine Distemper

  • Coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Bloodshot Eyes
  • Seizures
  • Paralysis

The Siberian tiger population is already quickly declining as a result of poaching and habitat loss. Canine distemper, though, is accelerating the species' extinction. One tiger population dropped from almost forty to less than ten (Aoxue). Even Siberian tigers who reside in zoos around the world are no safe from the ravages of canine distemper. Outbreaks are still occurring in their enclosures. Sharon Guynup of National Geographic states that the disease affects their brain function and makes them fearless; if they do not die from the seizures, they usually succumb to their own hubris. The brain damage that results from the condition causes the animals to roam closer to roads and villages where they are more easily killed by vehicles and villagers.

Primates Jeopardized By Ebola

Recent outbreaks in Africa have led to an uproar in media attention centered on Ebola. The condition used to be known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever and was discovered in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976 (Aoxue). The disease can be carried by other animals, such as bats, and is easily spread between humans through bodily fluids. While the disease has taken a terrifying toll on humans, it is also affecting other primate species. 

Signs of Ebola Infection

  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • External and internal bleeding
  • Loss of liver and kidney function
  • Death

The outbreak of Ebola in Africa spread to great apes like chimpanzees in Guinea and Central Africa’s western lowland gorillas. The disease spreads easily among primates because they are tactile and dynamically social, meaning they are constantly making physical contact with each other. With a mortality rate of almost ninety five percent, their populations have been reduced by one third in a mere four decades according to The Daily Beast's Abby Haglage. This is particularly worrisome because these species are already dwindling in numbers. Several epidemics in recent years have completely wiped out several gorilla species. While researchers are striving to reduce some of the devastating impact the disease is having on humans, the effect it is having on ape populations is not receiving the attention it deserves.

Sea Lions Threatened by Herpes Affliction

While human beings share many diseases that also affect wildlife, herpes can be especially deadly to animals. A large number of the human population are relatively familiar with the disease thanks to education on sexually transmitted diseases. Herpes does not only affect humans, though, and can have grossly effect animal species like sea lions. In fact, more than twenty percent of females and almost twice as many males are estimated to be infected with herpes (Aoxue). In recent years, the percentage of sea lions diagnosed with cancers affecting the cervixes of females and the penises and prostates of males has risen to seventeen percent (Aoxue).The cause of such cancers is a specific strain of herpes. Such cancers attack the spinal cords, paralyzing them and eventually causing their demise. As the number of cases increases, so does concern over the effect that herpes will have on the population as a whole. 

Rabbits Exposed to RDHV

The exploding rabbit population has been a plague ravaging Australia for years. Because females can give birth to a large number of kits every year, the rabbit population quickly grew to incredible numbers, causing immense damage on the natural ecosystem and driving away other animal species. When colonists arrived in the eighteenth century, they brought rabbits with them and they have been there ever since. Their numbers skyrocketed to ten billion by the early twentieth century. Poison and fire have been used to attempt to control their booming populations, but the most damage to their numbers has been overwhelmingly caused by the rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus. The introduction of the virus to the ecosystem was a complete accident.

Scientists were experimenting with RDHV and the effects it would have on Wardang Island, off the southern coast. The virus was picked up by flies and brought back to the mainland where it ravaged the rabbit population. RDHV has reduced their numbers by sixty percent (Aoxue). 

As a result of the huge drop in rabbit populations, native vegetation has returned, as well as a number of animal species like mice and kangaroos. There have even been improvements in the populations of certain rodents that had been placed on the endangered list, such as the plains mouse and the dusky hopping mouse. Other species bounced back from danger as well, like the crest-tailed mulgara, a small marsupial that feeds on insects and small lizards. Unlike many other diseases effecting animal populations, this one seems to have made a rather positive impact. 

Wolves In Danger From Mange

PetMD describes sarcoptic mange as a highly contagious skin disease found in dogs, caused by the Sarcoptes scabiei mite  Wolf populations have the potential to be devastated by sarcoptic mange. This disease is caused by a specific type of mite that burrows into the skin of the wolf. The burrowing can cause insatiable itching and hair loss. The constant scratching and biting in an attempt to soothe the area can cause it to become dangerously infected with bacteria. When left untreated, sarcoptic mange can lead to significant weight loss and organ damage before finally killing the animal. 

The sarcoptic mange can be easily spread from animal to animal, which is part of what makes it such a dangerous threat. Any direct contact with infected animals, despite whether they are living or dead, can lead to the spread of the condition (Mange In the Red Fox). Wolves are social creatures and live in family packs and groups. Their close proximity to each other and shared social behavior, like grooming, provides an ideal environment for the sarcoptic mange to spread among the pack quickly. Another way that the disease can spread is that it can be carried in burrows that had had previous contact with an animal that was infected. Other animals that carry the disease, like foxes, for example, have also been observed, easily identified through their cracked and flaky skin, a tell-tale sign of the mange. 

Mange is also able to live without a host for short periods of time and is spread through contact of uninfected animals with bedding or feeding sites that came into contact with an animals infected with mange (Almberg).


Wild animals must constantly be on the alert. As this sample essay from Ultius highlights, living in the wilderness comes with an entirely different set of dangers and threats than humans have ever had to experience. A very common threat that can seriously decrease animal populations that humans are also familiar with is disease. Currently, a number of animal species are being affected by diseases that humans do not have to worry about. Interestingly, a number of diseases that affect animal populations are also a threat to humans. These include conditions like Ebola in primates and herpes in sea lions. While humans and wild animals are undoubtedly different, it is rather interesting to think that we can all be affected and threatened by the same dangers.

Works Cited

Almberg, Emily. “The dynamics and impacts of sarcoptic mange on Yellowstone’s wolves”. Yellowstone Wolf. Yellowstone Wolf: Project Citizen Science, n.d. 31 Aug. 2016. 

Aoxue, W. “10 Diseases That Are Wiping Out Entire Species”. Listverse. Listverse, 22 May 2016. Web. 31 Aug. 2016. 

Goldfarb, Ben. “A virus is taming Australia’s bunny menace, and giving endangered species new life”. Science Mag. Science Mag, 17 Feb. 2016. Web. 31 Aug. 2016. 

Guynup, Sharon. “The Latest Threat to Siberian Tigers: Canine Distemper”. National Geographic. National Geographic, LLC. 30 Nov. 2014. Web. 31 Aug. 2016. 

Haglage, Abby. “Ebola is Wiping Out the World’s Gorillas”. The Daily Beast. The Daily Beast, 22 Jan 2015. Web. 31 Aug. 2016. 

“Mange in the Red Fox”. Wildlife Online. Wildlife Online, 29 Mar. 2011. Web. 31 Aug. 2016. 

"Sarcoptic Mange in Dogs" Petmd.com. PetMD nd. Web

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