Development partners Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency, the University of Pretoria and Peace Parks Foundation re-opened the refurbished Hans Hoheisen Wildlife Research Station in August 2010. The Research Station provides a dedicated platform for local and international researchers to conduct experimental work focused on animal diseases and related issues at the transfrontier interface between people, livestock and wildlife.
Hans Hoheisen Wildlife Research Station was refurbished and upgraded thanks to an investment by the Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust, Fondation Hoffmann, Alexander Forbes, Turner Foundation and Peace Parks Foundation.
During the official opening of the Hans Hoheisen Wildlife Research Station in August 2010, Peace Parks Foundation, with support from the Turner Foundation, made available a donation for priority research on veterinary issues in transfrontier conservation areas. With foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) making the headlines regularly throughout southern Africa, it was chosen as the topic for research. FMD is a highly contagious viral disease affecting cloven hooved animals and camels worldwide. While FMD does not cause extensive mortalities, its symptoms have major implications for livestock production, especially in intensive or high-producing farming systems, hence the global efforts to control its spread through livestock trade in and among countries. Two Master’s students at UP, Dr Iolanda Anahory from Mozambique and Dr David Lazarus from Nigeria, were appointed to work on the project. Dr Lazarus is mostly based at the Research Station to collect the necessary samples and, using an intricate study design, is aiming his research at assessing FMD vaccine efficacy under different vaccination strategies. Dr Anahory is based at the Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute’s Transboundary Animal Disease Programme laboratories in Pretoria to run diagnostic tests on these samples and improve on current diagnostic techniques.
Funding from the Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust, managed by BoE Private Clients as sole trustee, was made available to contribute to essential laboratory upgrades to biosafety 2 level, additional maintenance to the air-conditioning systems and the establishment of freezers suitable to begin the bio-banking of samples. The capabilities of the Station were further significantly enhanced thanks to a brand new blood chemistry analyser, kindly sponsored by the Onderstepoort Veterinary Academic Hospital.
The Station’s information technology received a big boost through the installation of a UPS and server for the laboratory wing, as well as connectivity to the internet. Further expansion was made possible thanks to a generous donation-in-kind by Alpine Communications through their association with the University of Pretoria. The donation includes a fibre-optic link between the main office building and student and staff accommodation, an additional 90 network points and all the necessary copper cabling in between. This expansion allows for direct network and internet access by researchers from their accommodation.
The Research Station is gradually becoming an important research platform at the wildlife-livestock-human interface. The accommodation facilities now regularly reach 40% occupancy per month, bringing in much needed operational funds.
In February a study tour, hosted by UP’s Faculty of Veterinary Science, was undertaken to introduce CIRAD (French Agricultural Research for Development) researchers to the activities of the Hans Hoheisen Wildlife Research Station and the Mnisi Community Programme. This was followed by a similar tour to a number of CIRAD study sites in southern Zimbabwe, to conceive and establish collaborative wildlife-livestock-human interface research projects in the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park. Scientists from the Tanzanian Wildlife Research Institute and SANParks also visited the Station.
The installation of modern audio-visual equipment for the auditorium and library, which also doubles as a boardroom, as well as refurbishment of the auditorium’s air-conditioning system enabled the Station to host international meetings of the EPISTIS project in March. The EPISTIS project is a Belgian-funded, multidisciplinary project, involving South African, Belgian, Italian and British scientists, to develop spatial risk assessment tools for foot-and-mouth disease and bluetongue in southern Africa and Europe. The group includes remote-sensing specialists, epidemiologists, modelling experts and veterinarians.