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Virbac foundation: animal health at the heart of ecosystems’ health
As part of its mission to raise public awareness of animal health, the Virbac foundation has provided support for a rabies and bovine tuberculosis screening, monitoring and prevention programme in Zimbabwe's Gonarezhou park since 2015. Explanations below.
60% of human infectious diseases are zoonoses and 70% of them originate from wildlife species. In some regions of the world, demographic pressure and a growing demand for animal proteins result in the increasing physical proximity between wildlife, domestic animals and local populations. Aware of the issues associated with this interrelationship between animal, human and environmental health, also referred to as One Health, the Virbac foundation has supported an animal health programme at the heart of Gonarezhou park's ecosystem in Zimbabwe since 2015.
Transfrontier conservation areas: future solutions for ecosystem conservation
Since the 1990s, a new generation of protected areas has emerged in Africa with the creation of transfrontier conservation area bringing together national parks and reserves located in neighbouring countries. The boundaries of these countries, often established in a post-war environment, have sometimes split up whole ecosystems. The purpose of these parks is to restore not only ecological and economic continuity, but also sociocultural continuity between these protected areas. In particular, the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area is a symbol of wildlife conservation in Central Africa. Encompassing Kruger (South Africa), Limpopo (Mozambique) and Gonarezhou national parks, it is home to most of the region's large mammals, some of which are under threat, and is therefore part of the solution for future local ecosystem preservation.
Tuberculosis and rabies: deadly zoonosis
In Gonarezhou park, rabies and bovine tuberculosis represent the major health risks. Bovine tuberculosis is a very slowly evolving disease that affects both wild buffaloes and domestic cattle, and potentially humans, through the consumption of infected cows. The risk of spread is significant among carnivores already under threat (lions, wild dogs, etc.), especially when livestock and wildlife share certain watering areas. Rabies is also one of the most lethal zoonosis. Since 2010, cases of both animal-borne and human-borne rabies have been reported in local communities with increasing frequency in Zimbabwe, when in fact the disease was relatively under control up to that point.
Reducing the health risks
Reducing the risk of spread and transmission of these zoonosis to animal and human populations, preventing the emergence of other diseases and improving the health status of local communities. Such are the main goals of the programme supported by the Virbac foundation in Gonarezhou park. In 2015, in addition to replacing a water supply network for livestock in local communities, this programme involves screening wild buffaloes and domestic cattle for bovine tuberculosis and conducting a rabies vaccination campaign for domestic dogs around the park.
Encouraging results... but more is needed
Thanks to the professionalism and coordination of veterinary teams working in the field, samples were taken from close to 100 wild buffaloes and 300 domestic bovines. More than 1,000 domestic dogs were also vaccinated against rabies. Finally, the installation of a water pump and rehabilitation of a drainage system that supplies water to a livestock trough are in the final stages of completion. All of these monitoring, screening and awareness initiatives will continue in the months to come in this region of the world where, more than ever, local animal and human populations are in need of improved sanitary conditions.