The Headquarters of the OIE – The World Organisation for Animal Health in Paris, France was the venue for the Joint OIE-CIC International Meeting on early detection and prevention of African Swine Fever (ASF) and other animal health issues at the wildlife-livestock-human interface on 30 June – 1 July, 2014.
The meeting gathered representatives from both the veterinary and hunting communities with a view to improving the collaboration between the two groups. It was seen as but the first step of a continued collaboration between the two organisations, following a cooperation agreement signed by the OIE and CIC in 2011.
With this meeting, the OIE and CIC aim to enhance the capacity of countries in early detection, official notification and response to animal diseases, including those transmissible to humans (zoonoses), especially in wild animals, thereby contributing to biodiversity conservation, as well as animal and human health.
When opening the meeting, Director General of the OIE, Dr Bernard Vallat stressed the importance of cooperation between hunters and other stakeholders, saying that “OIE and CIC are working together to develop and promote these concepts in order to better mobilize stakeholders and strengthen alliances between the authorities and organizations of hunters, fishermen and professionals of aquatic and terrestrial protected areas”
Throughout the meeting, hunters were highlighted as important sentinels, present in the field and capable of assisting veterinary services in the early detection of wildlife diseases.
The President of the CIC, Mr. Bernard Lozé, stated that “examples of cooperation between farmers and veterinary services are of course endless, in contrast to those between the hunting community and veterinarians.” Presentations were given on existing programmes in France and Germany involving collaboration between hunters, hunting organisations, veterinary services and research organisations. President Lozé stressed the importance or learning from these best practice examples and replicating similar initiatives throughout the world.
Much of the focus of the meeting was on African Swine Fever (ASF), a disease which appeared in Georgia in 2007 and has since spread throughout the wider Trans-Caucasus region and the Russian Federation, threatening domestic pig and wild boar populations on the eastern borders of the European Union (EU). The EU observed the first such outbreaks in 2014 in Lithuania, Poland and Latvia, with wild boar seen as the main vector in the spread of the virus into these states.
So far, studies suggest that wild boar on their own are not able to maintain the disease in the environment. However, this has only been shown where population densities are relatively low, particularly compared with those in some western EU States. Where wild boar densities are high, it is not yet known whether the species could enable the virus to be maintained in the environment. Any persistence of the virus in wild boar populations over time would be particularly worrying for hunters.
One key difficulty in ASF surveillance is the identification of disease symptoms. External symptoms are not unique to the virus and are rarely visible in live animals. However, post mortem examinations allow, even by those with minimal training, the identification of abnormalities in the internal organs of wild boar. Samples can then be taken and sent to veterinarian services to check for diseases.
In general, there is a real need to improve awareness and to train hunters on wildlife disease monitoring, recognition and reporting. As sentinels on the ground, hunters must understand the importance of collaborating with veterinary services for the health of wildlife, livestock and humans.
The CIC and OIE will continue to work together to: improve the awareness of hunters regarding wildlife diseases, enhance communication and cooperation between the hunting and veterinary communities, and provide training for hunters in the early detection and response to wildlife diseases, together with veterinarian services in different countries.
As a next step, the CIC (including its sister organization in the EU, FACE – The European Federation of Associations for Hunting and Conservation) and OIE need to develop action items and their funding in order to implement a response to the main findings of the meeting.
The CIC would like to thank OIE for the fantastic organisation and excellent collaboration throughout.
The official Press Release of the OIE is available here