AHEAD Update – January / February / March 2014

*Welcome to the first AHEAD Update of 2014. Please note that URL hotlinks for many of the organizations mentioned below can be found at http://www.wcs-ahead.org/links.html. If you would like to post an item in the next AHEAD Update, please just send it to us- thanks.



(1) Balancing Livestock Production and Wildlife Conservation in and around Southern Africa’s Transfrontier Conservation Areas

Thomson, G. R., Penrith, M.-L., Atkinson, M. W., Atkinson, S. J., Cassidy, D. and Osofsky, S. A. (2013), Balancing Livestock Production and Wildlife Conservation in and around Southern Africa's Transfrontier Conservation Areas. Transboundary and Emerging Diseases, 60: 492–506. doi: 10.1111/tbed.12175


Biodiversity conservation, of which the transfrontier conservation area movement is an integral part, and more effective livestock production/trade are pivotal to future rural development in southern Africa. For that reason, it is imperative to effectively ameliorate the obstacles that have impeded progress towards the coexistence of these two sectors for more than half a century. Transboundary animal diseases, foot and mouth disease in particular, have been and continue to be the most important of these obstacles. Fortunately, new developments in international sanitary standards applicable to trade in commodities and products derived from animals are beginning to make a solution possible. However, while progress in principle has been achieved, practical implementation remains problematic for technical reasons, exacerbated by inconsistent attitudes towards acceptance of non-traditional international trade standards. This paper describes the background to this situation, progress that has been achieved in the recent past and remaining difficulties that need to be overcome to advance towards achievement of balanced rural development in southern Africa. See http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/tbed.12175/abstract or contact Shirley Atkinson satkinson@wcs.org for additional information.

(2) International Trade Standards for Commodities and Products Derived from Animals: The Need for a System that Integrates Food Safety and Animal Disease Risk Management

Thomson, G. R., Penrith, M.-L., Atkinson, M. W., Thalwitzer, S., Mancuso, A., Atkinson, S. J. and Osofsky, S. A. (2013), International Trade Standards for Commodities and Products Derived from Animals: The Need for a System that Integrates Food Safety and Animal Disease Risk Management. Transboundary and Emerging Diseases, 60: 507–515. doi: 10.1111/tbed.12164


A case is made for greater emphasis to be placed on value chain management as an alternative to geographically based disease risk mitigation for trade in commodities and products derived from animals. The geographic approach is dependent upon achievement of freedom in countries or zones from infectious agents that cause so-called transboundary animal diseases, while value chain-based risk management depends upon mitigation of animal disease hazards potentially associated with specific commodities or products irrespective of the locality of production. This commodity-specific approach is founded on the same principles upon which international food safety standards are based, viz. hazard analysis critical control points (HACCP). Broader acceptance of a value chain approach enables animal disease risk management to be combined with food safety management by the integration of commodity-based trade and HACCP methodologies and thereby facilitates ‘farm to fork’ quality assurance. The latter is increasingly recognized as indispensable to food safety assurance and is therefore a pre-condition to safe trade. The biological principles upon which HACCP and commodity-based trade are based are essentially identical, potentially simplifying sanitary control in contrast to current separate international sanitary standards for food safety and animal disease risks that are difficult to reconcile. A value chain approach would not only enable more effective integration of food safety and animal disease risk management of foodstuffs derived from animals but would also ameliorate adverse environmental and associated socio-economic consequences of current sanitary standards based on the geographic distribution of animal infections. This is especially the case where vast veterinary cordon fencing systems are relied upon to separate livestock and wildlife as is the case in much of southern Africa. A value chain approach would thus be particularly beneficial to under-developed regions of the world such as southern Africa specifically and sub-Saharan Africa more generally where it would reduce incompatibility between attempts to expand and commercialize livestock production and the need to conserve the subcontinent’s unparalleled wildlife and wilderness resources. See http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/tbed.12164/abstract or contact Shirley Atkinson satkinson@wcs.org for additional information.


*New HEAL team paper – Human Health Impacts of Ecosystem Alteration (2013) Myers SS, Gaffikin L, Golden CD, Ostfeld RS, Redford KH, Ricketts TH, Turner WR and Osofsky SA, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110 (47): 18753-18760 – We are very pleased to be able to share this new framework paper by members of the HEAL (Health & Ecosystems: Analysis of Linkages http://www.wcs-heal.org) consortium from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Human activity is rapidly transforming most of Earth’s natural systems. How this transformation is impacting human health, whose health is at greatest risk, and the magnitude of the associated disease burden are relatively new subjects within the field of environmental health. We discuss what is known about the human health implications of changes in the structure and function of natural systems and propose that these changes are affecting human health in a variety of important ways. We identify several gaps and limitations in the research that has been done to date and propose a more systematic and comprehensive approach to applied research in this field. Such efforts could lead to a more robust understanding of the human health impacts of accelerating environmental change and inform decision making in the land-use planning, environmental conservation, and public health policy realms.
See http://www.wcs-heal.org/about-heal/reports-and-resources and http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1218656110.

*New paper – Preliminary Assessment of Bovine Tuberculosis at the Livestock/Wildlife Interface in two Protected Areas of Northern Botswana (2013), Jori F, Mokopasetso M, Etter E, Munstermann S, Newman SH and Michel A, Transboundary and Emerging Diseases, 60, pp. 28-36 – Protected areas of northern Botswana such as the Okavango Delta (OD) or Chobe National Park (CNP) are well-known hot spots for the conservation of African wildlife. However, their infection status regarding bovine tuberculosis (BTB) at the domestic/wildlife interface has never been investigated. To provide preliminary baseline data on the circulation of Mycobacterium bovis in those sites, we performed a cross-sectional survey on 130 buffalo in both protected areas (60 individuals from CNP and 70 from OD) and 818 cattle in their surrounding communal lands (369 in CNP and 449 in the OD). Whole-blood samples were tested using a commercial interferon-gamma assay (IFN-γ) with modifications. The apparent BTB prevalence in buffalo was nil in CNP and 0.7% 95% CI [0.2–1.9] in the OD, while the apparent BTB prevalence in cattle was 0.7% 95% CI [0.2–2.1] in the OD and 2.4% 95% CI [1.2–4.7] in CNP. True prevalence values calculated on the basis of the locally applicable IFN-γ test performance suggested that BTB prevalence was nil in both buffalo populations and in cattle from the OD interface, but reached 2.3% 95% CI [0.2–4.5] in cattle populations around CNP. The results of a questionnaire survey conducted among a sample of farmers living in the communities adjacent to each conservation area (97 and 38 persons in the OD and CNP, respectively) suggested a higher risk of the circulation of M. bovis at the wildlife/livestock interface of the CNP than at that of the OD. However, further comprehensive studies are needed to confirm the circulation of M. bovis and to monitor the inter-species and transboundary transmission of BTB in northern Botswana. See http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/tbed.12110/abstract.


*Masters of Wildlife Health and Population Management, University of Sydney – The Masters of Wildlife Health and Population Management is an innovative program that provides holistic training in wildlife population management. Students will be taught by experts from academia, industry, and government in one of the most beautiful and ecologically diverse settings in the world, yet will only be a short distance from the cosmopolitan and vibrant city of Sydney. Graduates will have the skills to address the increasingly complex challenges that face wildlife around the world, allowing them to be employed in a wide range of wildlife-related fields or enter a PhD program. The Masters offers the student maximum flexibility to be able to take full advantage of the opportunities available in the program. It is composed of 6 units of study that are offered as one week residential (full time for 7 days) courses with additional online material and a 12 credit research capstone experience. The units and capstone experience can be taken as a 1 year program or part time over a number of years. The Wildlife Masters is designed to appeal to students with a background in biology, ecology, conservation or veterinary medicine. For more information: phone +61 2 9036 6364, email vetscience.pgcinfo@sydney.edu.au, or see http://sydney.edu.au/vetscience/wildlife_masters/program/index.shtml.

*Malilangwe (Zimbabwe) Course on Chemical and Physical Restraint of African Wildlife – This course is conducted in Zimbabwe each year in February. It is organized and coordinated by the Zimbabwe Wildlife Veterinary Trust (ZWVT) in conjunction with the Government Veterinary Services (GVS) Wildlife Unit and other partners. The course originated in Zimbabwe over 30 years ago, when the GVS was asked to assist in the training of National Parks personnel in safe wild animal capture. For the past 13 years, this intensive program, taught over a 10 day period, has been conducted in the Malilangwe Wildlife Estate near Gona-Re-Zhou National Park in the south-east lowveld of Zimbabwe. This course has educated wildlife health and management professionals from all over the world in the science and art of chemical and physical restraint of wild animals. Participants obtain a wealth of both theoretical and practical experience, including hands on training. See the new course website at http://wildlifecaptureafrica.com.

Again, if you have items for the next AHEAD Update, please just let us know – thanks.

"What is AHEAD?" Animal & Human Health for the Environment And Development was launched at the 2003 IUCN World Parks Congress in Durban, South Africa. By assembling a ‘dream team’ of veterinarians, ecologists, biologists, social and economic scientists, agriculturists, wildlife managers, public health specialists and others from across East and southern Africa, the Wildlife Conservation Society, IUCN, and a range of partners tapped into some of the most innovative conservation and development thinking on the African continent – and AHEAD was born. Since then, a range of programs addressing conservation, health, and concomitant development challenges have been launched with the support of a growing list of implementing partners and donors who see the intrinsic value of what WCS has called the “One World, One Health” approach. AHEAD is a convening, facilitative mechanism, working to create enabling environments that allow different and often competing sectors to literally come to the same table and find collaborative ways forward to address challenges at the interface of wildlife health, livestock health, and human health and livelihoods. We convene stakeholders, help delineate conceptual frameworks to underpin planning, management and research, and provide technical support and resources for projects stakeholders identify as priorities. AHEAD recognizes the need to look at health and disease not in isolation but within a given region's environmental and socioeconomic context.

All the best,

Steve & Shirley