ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Zoo is starting an initiative aimed at investigating connections between animals and human health.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the initiative will include finding ways to stanch the spread of emerging diseases. The Institute for Conservation Medicine will be led by veterinarian and epidemiologist Sharon Deem.
The institute will be funded by private foundations and grants. St. Louis Zoo President Jeffrey Bonner said the zoo was among the few zoos with a full staff of pathologists, endocrinologists and epidemiologists as well as wild animals.
Deem said early projects include research on Missouri hellbenders, salamanders that live in Ozark rivers. Hellbender numbers have plummeted, and some scientists believe pesticide runoff has altered the hellbender's reproductive system. Men in the region also have lower sperm counts.