Wildlife and pastoral society—shifting paradigms in disease control

Richard Kock, Bidjeh Kebkiba, Risto Heinonen, Berhanu Bedane
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 2002, 969: 24-33
The dramatic changes in the human and animal populations in Africa over the last century demand the re-examination of priorities and policies. The introduction of developed medical and other human technologies into the continent has contributed to increases in population and a rapid, unsustainable increase in the utilization of resources. This in turn has led to the destruction of flora and fauna on an unprecedented scale with little real improvement in the human condition. One factor in this has been the increase in livestock in line with human demographic growth, as it is a traditional livelihood of many African peoples. In recent years the growth in livestock populations has slowed owing to a cycle of degradation and disease, affecting especially traditional pastoral systems with a close physical association between people, livestock, and wild animals. Pathogens benefit hugely from the dynamic state created by animal migration, although to some extent the livestock and certainly wildlife show considerable tolerance to this. One of the grave economic consequences of this increase in disease has been collapse of the export trade. In order for Africa to fully benefit and share in world trade, the zoosanitary situation must show improvement. To do this without destroying the natural resource base and traditional pastoral systems, will require a careful, future-oriented land-use policy along ecologically sound criteria. Export livestock will have to be maintained in areas, probably free of ruminant wildlife, with strict veterinary controls. If this can be balanced with sufficient areas retained for traditional pastoralism and wildlife, with perhaps the main income from recreational tourism and local consumption, the benefits will be considerable. The answer may be community-based, low-cost, decentralized health systems for pastoral communities, with less stringent sanitary mandates, a private/parastatal sector servicing, with specialization in wildlife, dairy or export livestock and a central veterinary policy, related to surveillance and monitoring using small well-resourced professional teams to carry out regulatory and statutory duties.

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