During the official opening of the Hans Hoheisen Wildlife Research Station in August 2010, Peace Parks Foundation, with support from Turner Foundation, made available a donation towards priority research concerning veterinary issues in transfrontier conservation areas. 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.
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.
The Hans Hoheisen Wildlife Research Station was refurbished and upgraded thanks to an investment by the Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust (managed by Nedbank Private Wealth), 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.
In 2013 the business plan for Hans Hoheisen Wildlife Research Station was reviewed to realign its future development and use with the broader objectives of the TFCA Veterinary Wildlife Programme, part of which includes the University of Pretoria becoming the designated research partner for TFCA-related studies.
The environmental impact study for the entire development and operations of the research station is nearing completion. The public participation process was completed, and a specialist waste management report was incorporated into the documentation.
A major evaluation of the state of the laboratories at the research station was performed by laboratory staff of the University of Pretoria’s Faculty of Veterinary Science, with recommendations for joint management structures to be put in place between the laboratories at the faculty and at the wildlife research station. A veterinary technologist post was created and filled, with the purpose of bringing the laboratory practices and standards in line with national norms and internationally accredited standards. The control of standard operating procedures in the laboratory needs to be maintained, particularly with increased student usage. A risk assessment process was also started to identify breaches in the technical and biosecurity systems in the laboratory complex. Related to this, a student cafeteria area was created in the main building to obviate food consumption by students in the laboratories.
Dedicated software systems were installed to manage the samples in the biobank. This makes interfacing with the systems used at the University of Pretoria’s Faculty of Veterinary Science relatively simple. New computers and computer screens were also installed, and the old units donated to schools in the area.
The -86 °C freezer is now fully operational. The validation of some the laboratory equipment, such as the serum biochemistry analyser, and techniques used for these items is in process.
The post-mortem facilities were upgraded, with dedicated black-water draining systems in place. Upgrades to the electronic controls of the stand-by generator were completed. These upgrades, and the placement of an external diesel storage tank, have ensured the optimal functioning of this unit.
The environmental impact study for the development of the Hans Hoheisen Wildlife Research Station was completed in 2014 and permission was obtained to develop the bio- and chemical waste disposal extensions. A Section 20 approval was also obtained from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to be able to conduct and process biological specimens in the laboratories.
The University of Pretoria obtained the services of a registered hazardous waste company to collect biological and chemical waste on request. Quality control systems were implemented in the laboratories and 42 standard operating procedures were written. Risk assessments were completed for all sections of the laboratory, accommodation, the water plant, post-mortem facilities and
the generator. The biobanking of samples for three completed studies was also performed. The chemical storage cabinets supplied by UP were installed and are in use. Routine maintenance on the roof and other structures was performed. The annual validation of all the laboratory equipment was also completed, as required by accreditation standards. All the buildings were equipped with fire extinguishers and the applicable safety signage was put up. Personnel were sent on first-aid and firefighting courses to comply with occupational health and safety regulations. The fire-trailer was also restored and is in working order.
An in-house nursery was started on site to supply the gardens with plants indigenous to the area, and indigenous trees were planted on the grounds. Personnel have started a project to recycle glass at the research station, at the local Hluvukani Clinic and in the community. Organic waste is being recycled for use as compost in the gardens. Bat boxes were installed on many of the buildings.
Funding was obtained to develop a Master of Science programme focusing on topics that are relevant to the interface between people, livestock and wildlife, specifically in TFCAs. This programme will be based at the research station. Significant progress was made to align the degree with UP’s teaching and research standards and objectives.
A service-level agreement with the Southern African Wildlife College was extended with some modifications, requiring the purchase of basic equipment for maintenance of the research station.