Veterinary Research

The Challenge

Healthy environments support healthy wildlife – and healthy livestock vital to the communities bordering conservation areas. Within an environment where partners countries strive to re-establish large functional ecosystems across man-made borders, the spreading of diseases across international lines needs to be carefully monitored and controlled.

Since antiquity, animal diseases in Africa have had an impact on wildlife, livestock and human settlement patterns. Food security, sustainable livelihoods and biodiversity can all be adversely affected by the inadequate control of animal diseases. While the responsibility of disease control globally lies with the government of each country, in the African context resources and the capacity to control animal diseases vary considerably from country to country.

Our Solution

Peace Parks Foundation, through its Transfrontier Conservation Area Veterinary Wildlife Programme (TFCA-VWP), supports TFCA partner countries to manage transboundary disease risks and to promote integrated and/or complementary disease control policies within and between countries. The programme focusses on providing research and consultative support and is currently managed by the Centre for Veterinary Wildlife Studies of the University of Pretoria. A formal agreement with the university, SANParks and other institutions, facilitates access to vast research networks, infrastructure and expertise, enabling proficient analysis of disease risks at the wildlife/livestock/human interface. The TFCA-VWP also participates in formal and informal networks relevant to important veterinary issues in TFCAs, particularly those related to bovine tuberculosis and foot-and-mouth disease.

HANS HOHEISEN WILDLIFE RESEARCH STATION

Built in 1980 on land donated by Hans Hoheisen, the research station was first opened close to Kruger National Park’s Orpen Gate in 1983.

HANS HOHEISEN WILDLIFE RESEARCH STATION FULLSCREEN

In 2010, a joint initiative between Peace Parks Foundation, the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency, and the University of Pretoria refurbished and formally re-opened the Hans Hoheisen Wildlife Research Station. This was made possible 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. The wildlife research station provides a dedicated platform for local and international researchers to conduct experimental work focused on animal diseases and related issues.

Projects Undertaken

Significant projects undertaken by the research station over the past few years include:

Herding for Health

Herding for Health (H4H) is a community development activity that promotes conservation outcomes while supporting people living in rural areas to find their way out of extreme poverty. It does this by teaching community members to make use of what they already have – cattle and other livestock. While many view livestock as a threat to conservation and especially rangeland health, it is in fact through the correct management of livestock and unlocking their value in underserved communities that significant benefits for sustainable land use and biodiversity conservation can be achieved.

 

Foot-and-mouth disease

Peace Parks Foundation, with support from the Turner Foundation, prioritised research on veterinary issues in TFCAs with a specific focus on Foot-and-mouth disease. The project examines vaccine efficacy under different vaccination regimes and looks at improving current diagnostic techniques.

Wildlife Poisoning

There has been an increase in wildlife-poisoning incidents in the southern African region, mostly related to the illegal wildlife trade. Poachers poison water sources to get to elephant ivory. Vulture populations, in particular, have been severely affected by poison incidents in the region as they feed on the poisoned carcasses. A 2016 study found that, of the 22 vulture species, nine are critically endangered and three are endangered. The Endangered Wildlife Trust Birds of Prey Programme regularly holds several raptor-poisoning workshops for rangers, veterinarians, students and environmental monitors from the surrounding area at the research station. The workshops teach attendees what to do when finding a poisoned raptor, and how to care for poison survivors, report the incident and manage and clean the crime site. The Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre provided a hands-on experience in showing attendees how to treat poisoned vultures.

Human-Animal Health

Today over 60% of human infectious diseases originate with wildlife and livestock. The One Health concept is a collaborative effort of multiple disciplines working locally, nationally and globally to attain optimal health for people, animals and the environment. To assist communities in identifying and mitigating risks in and around their homes, a new One Health community training curriculum was developed by research station staff in collaboration with researchers from the University of California School for Veterinary Medicine. The curriculum worked on a train-the-trainer model with 10 environmental monitors trained through the curriculum, who in turn trained over 100 community members in One Health risk mitigation at household level, such as proper sanitation and healthy livestock.

Avian research

Scientists at the University of Pretoria’s Faculty of Veterinary Science, who are also A-rated bird ringers, initiated a longitudinal bird-ringing initiative at the research station. Bird ringing is the attachment of a small, individually numbered metal or plastic tag to the leg or wing of a wild bird to enable individual identification. Data is stored and used to monitor changes in the composition of bird species and the behaviour of migrant bird species as indicators of climatic and ecological changes.

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