AHEAD Update – October / November / December 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. As a reminder, November 3rd is the first global One Health Day – and keep in mind that, with your support and involvement, AHEAD's been on the front lines (and lions?) of One Health from the beginning!


Two New Reports Makes Transfrontier Conservation Success in Southern Africa that Much More Urgent

*Catastrophic Declines in Wilderness Areas Undermine Global Environment Targets (2016), Watson JEM, Shanahan DF, Di Marco M, Allan J, Laurance WF, Sanderson EW, Mackey B, Venter O. Current Biology
Humans have altered terrestrial ecosystems for millennia, yet wilderness areas still remain as vital refugia where natural ecological and evolutionary processes operate with minimal human disturbance, underpinning key regional- and planetary-scale functions. Despite the myriad values of wilderness areas – as critical strongholds for endangered biodiversity, for carbon storage and sequestration, for buffering and regulating local climates, and for supporting many of the world's most politically and economically marginalized communities – they are almost entirely ignored in multilateral environmental agreements. This is because they are assumed to be relatively free from threatening processes and therefore are not a priority for conservation efforts. Here we challenge this assertion using new comparable maps of global wilderness following methods established in the original "last of the wild" analysis to examine the change in extent since the early 1990s. We demonstrate alarming losses comprising one-tenth (3.3 million km2) of global wilderness areas over the last two decades, particularly in the Amazon (30%) and central Africa (14%). We assess increases in the protection of wilderness over the same time frame and show that these efforts are failing to keep pace with the rate of wilderness loss, which is nearly double the rate of protection. Our findings underscore an immediate need for international policies to recognize the vital values of wilderness areas and the unprecedented threats they face and to underscore urgent large-scale, multifaceted actions needed to maintain them.

*Continent-Wide Survey Reveals Massive Decline in African Savannah Elephants (2016), Chase MJ, Schlossberg S, Griffin CR, Bouché PJC, Djene SW, Elkan PW, Ferreira S, Grossman F, Kohi EM, Landen K, Omondi P, Peltier A, Selier SAJ, Sutcliffe R. PeerJ 4:e2354
African elephants (Loxodonta africana) are imperiled by poaching and habitat loss. Despite global attention to the plight of elephants, their population sizes and trends are uncertain or unknown over much of Africa. To conserve this iconic species, conservationists need timely, accurate data on elephant populations. Here, we report the results of the Great Elephant Census (GEC), the first continent-wide, standardized survey of African savannah elephants. We also provide the first quantitative model of elephant population trends across Africa. We estimated a population of 352,271 savannah elephants on study sites in 18 countries, representing approximately 93% of all savannah elephants in those countries. Elephant populations in survey areas with historical data decreased by an estimated 144,000 from 2007 to 2014, and populations are currently shrinking by 8% per year continent-wide, primarily due to poaching. Though 84% of elephants occurred in protected areas, many protected areas had carcass ratios that indicated high levels of elephant mortality. Results of the GEC show the necessity of action to end the African elephants' downward trajectory by preventing poaching and protecting habitat.


*From Where the Buffalo Roam: India’s Beef Exports (2016), Landes M, Melton A, Edwards S. Report from the USDA Economic Research Service, LDPM-264-01 – Foot and mouth disease (FMD) is endemic in India: the country does not have a veterinary cordon fencing program and does not rely on FMD-free zones. Foot and mouth disease outbreaks are common. Yet, since the late 2000s, India’s exports of beef – specifically water buffalo meat – have expanded rapidly, with India emerging as the world’s largest beef exporter in 2014. This should give the Southern African Development Community (SADC) great pause…. The rapid growth in India’s exports is predicated on three factors: (1) rising demand for relatively low-cost meat by consumers in developing-country markets; (2) India’s large water buffalo herd, which was mostly untapped for meat production; and (3) the emergence of private sector, export-oriented Indian processors that have been effective in meeting the requirements of developing-country markets. So far, Indian water buffalo meat exports have not been competitive with U.S. beef exports, primarily because they do not meet the quality preferences and animal health regulations required in the major markets that import U.S. beef. But does that even really matter? See the full report at http://www.ers.usda.gov/media/2106598/ldpm-264-01.pdf.

*African Buffalo Movement and Zoonotic Disease Risk Across Transfrontier Conservation Areas, Southern Africa (2016), Caron A, Cornelis D, Foggin C, Hofmeyr M, de Garine-Wichatitsky M. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 22(2): 277-280. – We report on the long-distance movements of subadult female buffalo within a Transfrontier Conservation Area in Africa. Our observations confirm that bovine tuberculosis and other diseases can spread between buffalo populations across national parks, community land, and countries, thus posing a risk to animal and human health in surrounding wildlife areas. To access the full paper, see http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/22/2/14-0864_article.

*Eradication of Transboundary Animal Diseases: Can the Rinderpest Success Story Be Repeated? (2015), Thomson GR, Fosgate GT, Penrith M-L. Transboundary and Emerging Diseases. doi:10.1111/tbed.12385 – A matrix system was developed to aid in the evaluation of the technical amenability to eradication, through mass vaccination, of transboundary animal diseases (TADs). The system involved evaluation of three basic criteria – disease management efficiency, surveillance and epidemiological factors – each in turn comprised of a number of elements (17 in all). On that basis, 25 TADs that have occurred or do occur in southern Africa and for which vaccines are available, in addition to rinderpest (incorporated as a yardstick because it has been eradicated worldwide), were ranked. Cluster analysis was also applied using the same criteria to the 26 diseases, creating division into three groups. One cluster contained only diseases transmitted by arthropods (e.g. African horse sickness and Rift Valley fever) and considered difficult to eradicate because technologies for managing parasitic arthropods on a large scale are unavailable, while a second cluster contained diseases that have been widely considered to be eradicable [rinderpest, canine rabies, the Eurasian serotypes of foot and mouth disease virus (O, A, C & Asia 1) and peste des petits ruminants] as well classical swine fever, Newcastle disease and lumpy skin disease. The third cluster contained all the other TADs evaluated with the implication that these constitute TADs that would be more difficult to eradicate. However, it is acknowledged that the scores assigned in the course of this study may be biased. The point is that the system proposed offers an objective method for assessment of the technical eradicability of TADs; the rankings and groupings derived during this study are less important than the provision of a systematic approach for further development and evaluation. To access the paper, see http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/tbed.12385

*Escherichia coli Population Structure and Antibiotic Resistance at a Buffalo / Cattle Interface in Southern Africa (2016), Mercat M, Clermont O, Massot M, Ruppe E, de Garine-Wichatitsky M, Miguel E, Valls Fox H, Cornelis D, Andremont A, Denamur E, Caron A. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 82(5): 1459-1467. doi:10.1128/AEM.03771-15 – At a human/livestock/wildlife interface, Escherichia coli populations were used to assess the risk of bacteria and antibiotic resistance dissemination between hosts. We used phenotypic and genotypic characterization techniques to describe the structure and the level of antibiotic resistance of E. coli commensal populations and the resistant Enterobacteriaceae carriage of sympatric African buffalo (Syncerus caffer caffer) and cattle populations characterized by their contact patterns in the southern part of Hwange ecosystem in Zimbabwe. Our results (i) confirmed our assumption that buffalo and cattle share similar phylogroup profiles, dominated by B1 (44.5%) and E (29.0%) phylogroups, with some variability in A phylogroup presence (from 1.9 to 12%); (ii) identified a significant gradient of antibiotic resistance from isolated buffalo to buffalo in contact with cattle and cattle populations expressed as the Murray score among Enterobacteriaceae (0.146, 0.258, 0.340, respectively) and as the presence of tetracycline-, trimethoprim-, and amoxicillin-resistant subdominant E. coli strains (0, 5.7 and 38%, respectively); (iii) evidenced the dissemination of tetracycline, trimethoprim and amoxicillin resistance genes (tet, dfrA, blaTEM-1 in 26 isolated sub-dominant E. coli strains between nearby buffalo and cattle populations that led us (iv) to hypothesize the role of the human / animal interface in the dissemination of genetic material from humans to cattle and towards wildlife. The study of antibiotic resistance dissemination in multihost systems and at the anthropized / natural interface is necessary to better understand and mitigate its multiple threats. These results also contribute to attempts aiming at using E. coli as a tool for the identification of pathogen transmission pathways in multihost systems. For more information, see


Inaugural meeting of the International Society for Economics and Social Sciences of Animal Health (ISESSAH), Aviemore, Scotland, UK, March 27-28, 2017 – The recently formed International Society for Economics and Social Sciences of Animal Health (ISESSAH) aims to improve animal health and welfare policies, programmes and projects through more nuanced use of concepts and tools available in economics and social science disciplines. The meeting will feature keynote presentations from leading thinkers in economics and social sciences. Other oral and poster presentations will be selected from submitted abstracts. There will be a social function and a dinner to provide ample time for participants to engage in discussions. Key themes of the conference will evolve around the questions a) Where do we come from – what are some examples of critical progress in the use of economics and social sciences around animal health issues? b) Where do we stand now – how are economics and social sciences currently being used for animal health decision-making? and c) Where should we go – what will be the future challenges for economics and social sciences to improve animal health? The abstract submission deadline is the 30th of October. More detailed information is available at: http://www.isessah.com/inaugural-meeting/. For questions, please contact info@isessah.com. To receive conference updates, you can register your interest here.

Veterinary Management of African Wildlife Conference, University of Pretoria, South Africa, February 21-25, 2017 – Presented by the Faculty of Veterinary Science and the South African Veterinary Association (SAVA) Wildlife Group, the conference will focus on: Rhino and Elephant Conservation Medicine, People and Wildlife, Applied Clinical Practice, Wildlife Diseases, and Nutrition. Papers, case studies, research results reviewing recent advances, as well as other presentations that will be of interest to wildlife and zoo veterinarians and other scientists will be appreciated. Pre-congress workshops will be held on February 21st, followed by four days of talks with expert speakers from north Africa, the Middle East, Europe, the Americas, and southern Africa (see https://www.regonline.co.uk/wlg2017). For additional information, please contact Dr. Greg Simpson gjgsimpson@gmail.com or Dr. Jacques O’Dell Jacques.ODell@up.ac.za. The deadline for abstract submission is November 15th, 2016.


The four-year ESPA-funded One Health research programme Dynamic Drivers of Disease in Africa drew to a close with a March symposium, One Health for the Real World: Zoonoses, Ecosystems and Wellbeing, at the Zoological Society of London. The final panel, on engaging research with policy and action, included AHEAD's Dr. Steve Osofsky, as well as Dr. Katinka de Balogh (FAO), Professor David Heymann (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine), Dr. Elizabeth Mumford (WHO) and Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka (Conservation through Public Health). Videos, presentations, blogs and more from the event are available on the symposium's web page. The Consortium has also produced a multimedia album detailing some of its success stories.

The Aspen Ideas Festival Spotlight Health! forum was held in Aspen, Colorado, in June. Dr. Osofsky and Planetary Health Alliance colleagues were featured panelists: See http://www.aspenideas.org/session/planetary-health-interdependence-human-and-natural-systems for the session “Planetary Health: The Interdependence of Human and Natural Systems.”

And don’t forget, November 3rd is the first global One Health Day – keep in mind that AHEAD’s been on the front lines (and lions?) of One Health from the beginning!

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, we were fortunate to have 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 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