AHEAD Update – April / May / June 2016

Dear AHEAD Colleagues:

*Welcome to the latest issue of the AHEAD Update. If you would like to post an item in the next edition, please just send it to us – thanks.


Options for Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Management in East Africa: Research Findings Emphasize Community Practices and Value Chains, Not Fences

Tanzania has the third largest population of domestic livestock in Africa: livestock are critical to the lives and livelihoods of millions of Tanzanians. However, FMD is endemic in the region, and wildlife is often suspected of being the source of viruses causing disease in domestic livestock. Similar to the southern African situation, this has led to conflict between the wildlife sector (hugely important economically in East Africa as in southern Africa) and the livestock sector, with periodic calls for the construction of fences similar to those deployed in southern Africa to reduce contact between domestic animals and wildlife.

New research led by the University of Glasgow, the Pirbright Institute, and Tanzanian colleagues from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries and the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute is pointing to some very pragmatic approaches to this complex problem. The project found that transmission of FMD from wild buffalo to livestock is not the major factor driving spread of the virus. Instead, factors related to livestock herd management were more important in determining disease risk. The results also have important implications for wildlife conservation in the region, suggesting that disease control strategies that rely on separation of wildlife and livestock, such as veterinary cordon fences with their now well-documented damaging environmental impacts, would not significantly reduce disease risk. Through a series of workshops, these findings are helping local communities identify actions that they themselves can take to reduce the spread of FMD among their animals, and are also informing national policy. For example, participants at a recent official Livestock Modernization Initiative workshop concluded that disease-free zones were not an appropriate approach for controlling FMD in Tanzania, and efforts are underway to explore potential livestock vaccination strategies to reduce household impacts of FMD for poor farmers.

The University of Glasgow’s Dr. Sarah Cleaveland, an AHEAD colleague going back to our launch in 2003, notes: “We’ve contributed a substantial amount of data to endorse the view that there are alternative approaches that would be better for the economy, farmers and the environment in Tanzania.” Discussions with companies engaged in the meat industry in Tanzania led to the same conclusion. They felt that disease risk management emphasizing a value chain (commodity-based trade) approach should be effective, and that disease-free zones would not be needed. For more on this exciting work, please see
http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/documents/1602-fmd-tanzania/ and


*Using Simulations of Past and Present Elephant (Loxodonta
) Population Numbers in the Okavango Delta Panhandle, Botswana to Improve Future Population Estimates (2015) Songhurst A, Chase M and Coulson T. Wetlands Ecology and Management, 23: 583-602. doi:10.1007/s11273-015-9440-4 –
An ability to reliably estimate population numbers, trends and densities of wildlife has a prominent role in conservation and management of wetlands. We use aerial surveys and simulation techniques to explore the results of past and present elephant population surveys in the Okavango Delta Panhandle, Botswana, and use these to propose a technique of simulation to improve counts in the future. Population numbers and density estimates from past survey results show large fluctuations, which are unlikely to come from reproduction. Reasons for such variations could be attributed to imprecision in survey techniques or may be because only part of the elephant range is being surveyed. Simulated surveys of hypothetical elephant populations were used to explore the effect of different survey techniques, spatial distributions of animals and spatial scale on the precision of aerial survey population estimates and trends. Our study reveals the usefulness of using simulations to test the reliability of survey data and plan more efficient surveys. We also find that while there may be some uncertainty in individual population estimates, there is more certainty in the recorded trends. These findings reinforce the need to address elephant management in the Okavango and surrounding wetland systems and call for the urgent consideration of management strategies such as fence realignments to affect the objectives of the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) initiative, which will help relieve elephant population pressure. For more information, see http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11273-015-9440-4.

*Illegal Bushmeat Hunting in the Okavango Delta, Botswana: Drivers, Impacts and Potential Solutions (2015) Lindsay P, Rogan MS and McNutt JW. FAO / Panthera / Botswana Predator Conservation Trust, Harare, 62 pp. – Illegal hunting is a widespread but poorly understood problem in African savannahs. With financial and technical support from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s Technical Cooperation Programme, the research team investigated illegal bushmeat hunting around the Okavango Delta, Botswana. Data were collected through interviews with hunters, randomly selected heads of households, wildlife experts, land concession managers and anti-poaching personnel. Records of wildlife-related crimes and census data for delta wildlife populations were obtained from all available sources. The study found that illegal hunting is a widespread practice throughout the Okavango Delta, particularly in the western region. Three approaches were applied to estimate the number of hunters. Results suggest that 1,500 to 2,000 illegal hunters currently operate in and around the delta, with a best estimate of 1,775. Hunters’ reports indicate that approximately 244,500 to 470,000 kilograms of bushmeat are harvested annually. The average hunter harvests illegal bushmeat worth 3,260 to 4,720 BWP (USD 326–472) a year. A holistic approach is necessary to address illegal bushmeat hunting in the Okavango Delta and improve wildlife management. This report outlines strategies for expanding legal community benefits from wildlife, reforming wildlife management policies, improving enforcement and raising public awareness about wildlife issues. To access the full report, see http://www.fao.org/documents/card/en/c/dc1e2500-0e70-4a07-83f4-047d10277aaf/.

*Complementary Benefits of Tourism and Hunting to Communal Conservancies in Namibia (2016) Naidoo R, Weaver CL, Diggle RW, Matongo G, Stuart-Hill G and Thouless C. Conservation Biology, doi: 10.1111/cobi.12643 – Tourism and hunting both generate significant revenues for communities and private operators in Africa, but few studies have quantitatively examined the tradeoffs and synergies that may result from these two activities. Here, we evaluate financial and in-kind benefit streams from tourism and hunting on 77 communal conservancies in Namibia from 1998 to 2013, where community-based wildlife conservation has been promoted as a land-use that complements traditional subsistence agriculture. Across all conservancies, total benefits from hunting and tourism have grown at roughly the same rate, although conservancies typically start generating benefits from hunting within 3 years of formation as opposed to after 6 years for tourism. Disaggregation of data reveals the main benefits from hunting are income for conservancy management and meat to the community at large, while the majority of tourism benefits are salaried jobs at lodges. A simulated ban on trophy hunting significantly reduced the number of conservancies that were able to cover their operating costs, whereas eliminating income from tourism did not have as severe an effect. Given that the benefits generated from hunting and tourism typically begin at different times (earlier versus later, respectively) and flow to different segments of local communities, these two activities together can provide the greatest incentives for conservation. Notably, a singular focus on either hunting or tourism would likely reduce the value of wildlife as a competitive land-use option, and have serious negative implications for the viability of community-based conservation efforts in Namibia, and possibly in other parts of Africa. For more information, see http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cobi.12643/full.

*Spatial Overlap Between Sympatric Wild and Domestic Herbivores Links to Resource Gradients (2015) Zengeya F, Murwira A, Caron A, Cornélis D, Gandiwa P and de Garine-Wichatitsky M. Remote Sensing Applications: Society and Environment, 2: 56-65. doi:10.1016/j.rsase.2015.11.001 – In this study, we investigated the relationship between resource gradients and overlap between wild and domestic herbivores in a southern African ecosystem. We used an Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI) to identify and test the presence of resource gradients i.e. vegetation greenness between agricultural areas and conservation areas in Southeastern Zimbabwe, part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area. We then tested whether these resource gradients coincide with GPS collared cattle (Bos taurus) movements into wildlife areas, as well as drive spatial overlaps between cattle and the GPS collared African buffalo (Syncerus caffer). Results showed that resource gradients although variable, exist between the conservation area and surrounding agricultural area. Cattle used the conservation area less than expected during the dry season when vegetation greenness in the communal land was relatively lower than in the conservation area. Significant spatial segregation between cattle and buffalo occurred during the wet season and late dry season, while spatial aggregation occurred during the early dry season. Intensity of habitat overlap between cattle and buffalo during the early dry season was relatively high in habitats preferred by both species. Our results suggest that cattle movement into conservation areas is linked to resource gradients. To access the full paper, see http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352938515000221.

*Characteristics of Foot-and-Mouth Disease Viral Strains Circulating at the Wildlife / Livestock Interface of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (2016) Jori F, Caron A, Thompson PN, Dwarka R, Foggin C, de Garine-Wichatitsky M, Hofmeyr M, Van Heerden J and Heath L. Transboundary and Emerging Diseases, 63(1): e58-e70. doi: 10.1111/tbed.12231 – Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) inflicts severe economic losses within infected countries and is arguably the most important trade-restricting livestock disease in the world. In southern Africa, infected African buffaloes (Syncerus caffer) are the major reservoir of the South African Territories (SAT) types of the virus. With the progressive expansion of transfrontier conservation areas (TFCAs), the risk of FMD outbreaks is expected to increase due to a higher probability of buffalo/livestock contacts. To investigate the dynamics of FMD within and around the Great Limpopo TFCA (GLTFCA), 5 herds of buffaloes were sampled in June 2010 to characterize circulating viruses in South Africa and Zimbabwe. Three SAT-2 and three SAT-3 viral strains were isolated in both countries, including one that was genetically linked with a recent SAT-2 outbreak in Mozambique in 2011. In addition, two groups of unvaccinated cattle (n = 192) were serologically monitored for 1 year at the wildlife/livestock interface of Gonarezhou National Park (GNP) in Zimbabwe between April 2009 and January 2010, using the liquid-phase blocking ELISA (LPBE) and a test for antibodies directed against non-structural proteins (NSP). Neither clinical signs nor vaccination of cattle were reported during the study, yet a high proportion of the monitored cattle showed antibody responses against SAT-3 and SAT-1. Antibodies against NSP were also detected in 10% of the monitored cattle. The results of this study suggest that cattle grazing in areas adjacent to the GLTFCA can be infected by buffalo or other infected livestock and that cattle trade movements can act as efficient disseminators of FMD viruses to areas several hundred kilometres from the virus source. Current methods of surveillance of FMD at the GLTFCA interface seem insufficient to control for FMD emergence and dissemination and require urgent reassessment and regional coordination. To access the full paper, see

*Transmission of Foot and Mouth Disease at the Wildlife / Livestock Interface of the Kruger National Park, South Africa: Can the Risk be Mitigated? (2016) Jori F and Etter E. Preventive Veterinary Medicine, 126: 19-29. doi:10.1016/j.prevetmed.2016.01.016 – In southern Africa, the African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) is the natural reservoir of foot and mouth disease (FMD). Contacts between this species and cattle are responsible for most of the FMD outbreaks in cattle at the edge of protected areas, which generate huge economic losses. During the late 1980’s and 90’s, the erection of veterinary cordon fences and the regular vaccination of cattle exposed to buffalo contact at the interface of the Kruger National Park (KNP), proved to be efficient to control and prevent FMD outbreaks in South Africa. However, since 2000, the efficiency of those measures has deteriorated, resulting in an increased rate of FMD outbreaks in cattle outside KNP, currently occurring more than once a year. Based on retrospective ecological and epidemiological data, we developed a stochastic quantitative model to assess the annual risk of FMD virus (FMDV) transmission from buffalo to cattle herds present at the KNP interface. The model suggests that good immunization of approximately 75% of the cattle population combined with a reduction of buffalo/cattle contacts is an efficient combination to reduce FMDV transmission to one infective event every 5.5 years, emulating the epidemiological situation observed at the end of the 20th century, before current failure of control measures. The model also indicates that an increasing number of buffalo present in the KNP and crossing its boundaries, combined with a reduction in the vaccination coverage of cattle herds at the interface, increases 3-fold the risk of transmission (one infective event per year). The model proposed makes biological sense and provides a good representation of current knowledge of FMD ecology and epidemiology in southern Africa which can be used to discuss different management options to control FMD at the wildlife / livestock interface with stakeholders and updated if new information becomes available. It also suggests that the control of FMD at the KNP interface is becoming increasingly challenging and will probably require alternative approaches to control this disease and its economic impact. For more information, see http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167587716300332.


*2016 Southern African Society for Veterinary Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine (SASVEPM) Congress, Cape Town, South Africa, August 24-26, 2016 – SASVEPM is pleased to announce that abstract submissions are now open for the annual congress. This year’s theme is “Epidemiology on the Edge: Economics, Trade and Movement.” While submissions within the theme are welcome, SASVEPM is also happy to consider submissions within the broader field of veterinary epidemiology and preventive medicine. The closing date for submission of abstracts is May 8, 2016. For more information, see http://www.sasvepm.com/congress2016.html.

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