Europe’s hunters are deeply concerned following yesterday’s reports of African swine fever (ASF) in wild boar in Belgium. The infected animals were found in the Walloon municipality of Étalle in the province of Luxembourg. This is the first reported case of this problematic disease in western Europe, which is now present in 10 European Union (EU) countries.
At the moment it is unclear how the disease spread to Belgium or what the immediate response from authorities will be. However, monitoring and biosecurity must now be intensified by all stakeholders, and hunters have a key role to play in reporting any abnormal activity to the competent authorities. They are also asked to remain vigilant in their own areas and exercise stringent biosecurity measures to prevent the disease from spreading further. Everyone who is travelling in affected regions should take measures to stop the disease from spreading, for example transports and seasonal laborers.
The European Federation for Hunting and Conservation (FACE) and the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC) as well as hunters’ associations in Belgium and neighbouring countries are now working with a range of partners to ensure that hunters play a key role in combatting the spread of this disease.
FACE and the CIC are calling for the following actions:
- The necessary wild boar management measures must be established and executed in consultation with key stakeholders.
- Hunters should receive support from the regional, national and European authorities. This should contain the necessary equipment for hunters (e.g. silencers and night vision instruments), biosecurity measures and other management measures (e.g. for the detection of carcasses).
- Swift action is needed, taking into account lessons learnt from other EU countries and from the international training organised by FACE, the CIC and World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) on hunters’ role in the surveillance of wildlife diseases, of which the recommendations can be found here.
Currently, there is no known treatment or vaccination for ASF despite a substantial amount of research. Although the disease does not affect humans, it can impact all aspects of hunting and wildlife management where the it is present. This is evident from eastern Europe and the Baltic states where it is causing a wide range of problems for farmers, hunters, wildlife managers and the multi-billion-euro pork industry.
Speaking at last week’s FACE General Assembly in Brussels, the EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Mr. Vytenis Andriukaitis correctly stated that ASF is one of Europe’s largest animal health challenges where hunters have an important role.
The European Commission recently published information for hunters and their role in monitoring and combatting, which can be found here.