Illegal wildlife-pet trade can threaten wildlife populations directly from overharvest, but also indirectly as a pathway for introduction of infectious diseases. This study evaluated consequences of a hypothetical introduction of Newcastle disease (ND) into a wild population of Peru’s most trafficked psittacine, the white-winged parakeet (Brotogeris versicolurus), through release of infected confiscated individuals. We developed two mathematical models that describe ND transmission and the influence of illegal harvest in a homogeneous (model 1) and age-structured population of parakeets (model 2). Infection transmission dynamics and harvest were consistent for all individuals in model 1, which rendered it mathematically more tractable compared to the more complex, age-structured model 2 that separated the host population into juveniles and adults. We evaluated the interaction of ND transmission and harvest through changes in the basic reproduction number (R0) and short-term host population dynamics. Our findings demonstrated that ND introduction would likely provoke considerable disease-related mortality, up to 24% population decline in two years, but high harvest rates would dampen the magnitude of the outbreak. Model 2 produced moderate differences in disease dynamics compared to model 1 (R0 = 3.63 and 2.66, respectively), but highlighted the importance of adult disease dynamics in diminishing the epidemic potential. Therefore, we suggest that future studies should use a more realistic, age-structured model. Finally, for the presumptive risk that illegal trade of white-winged parakeets could introduce ND into wild populations, our results suggest that while high harvest rates may have a protective effect on the population by reducing virus transmission, the combined effects of high harvest and disease-induced mortality may threaten population survival. These results capture the complexity and consequences of the interaction between ND transmission and harvest in a wild parrot population and highlight the importance of preventing illegal trade.
Access this resource online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0147517