Saturday, July 24, 2010

'Healthy wildlife - a prerequisite for healthy humans'.

The latest newsletter issued by Florida based 'One Health', opens with an observation on the interaction between human beings, animals and the environment.
It describes two basic types of 'intrusions':
The first involves the intrusion of new and expanding human communities into uninhabited areas utilized by free-ranging wildlife. The second type of intrusion involves the colonization and/or seasonal uses of these communities by free-ranging wildlife. Both situations will continue to increase in association with the increasing human population and landscape changes that displace wildlife from their historic habitat.
While pointing out that in general, this interaction is not a cause for concern, nevertheless, with some diseases caution is needed. The author points out that this is because:
"In general, there is an absence of any coordinated approach for disease detection and reporting for many of the species groups beyond that independently carried out by specific interests. When infectious disease emergence is detected, timely response often is impeded by jurisdictional and social issues that serve to advance disease spread and establishment."
He continues,
"The wildlife ingredients within this “mixing bowl” are the most difficult to address because, unlike human and domestic animal health programs, there is no formal wildlife health infrastructure that links regulatory authorities, responsibilities for wildlife wellbeing, and disease reporting with dedicated agency programs for combating disease occurring among various wildlife populations. Instead collaborative efforts involving an informal coalition of various agencies, and interests, may become involved in any specific event. For example, it is common for the public to submit impaired wildlife to private sector wildlife rehabilitators. These individuals and programs have varying capacity to determine if infectious disease is involved or to prevent disease spread within their facilities."
Here, the author was talking about the USA, but he could just as easily have referred to the UK and bTB. With Defra, VLA, AHOs and veterinary surgeons operating independently of each other, and selectively from doctors and the HPA.

Another quote points out that pathogens do not indulge in specific species preference, and might be able to circulate in and between different animal populations, including wildlife, and people. The conclusion, is that
... healthy wildlife is a prerequisite for healthy humans.

Appearing in this medico/veterinary/environmental publication One Health is an update on the badger 'management' initiative which we posted here. (See p.7 of the 'One Health' pdf)
Author Richard Gard, describes the operating protocol:

"Working in areas of ten square miles, the activity of the badgers, their territories and the location of unhealthy or ‘skanky’ badgers are assessed and their location matched on a map with the location of the cattle. The farm boundaries and land ownership cease to be important. Many farms have parcels of land separated from one another. The picture that this provides is extremely interesting to the farmers and their veterinary surgeons and offers a means of reducing the transfer of infection. The planned programme is to achieve Healthy Badgers and Healthy Cattle."
This initiative involves not only farmers, but their vets, maps of farms and detail of land where reactor cattle have grazed. An overlay of badger setts and territories is then applied to this data. Cattle testing clear, and the badgers associated with their grazing areas are seen as as important as the TB reactor areas.

This postmortem pic is of a hugely emaciated badger with tuberculous pleurisy. Did it 'suffer'? A veterinary pathologist wryly points out that "it would be naive to assume that it did not". It is also naive to assume that prior to a very painful death, this badger did not share its burden of disease.

Mr. Gard's article continues on the theme of protecting healthy badgers:
Our observations show that the herds in areas with healthy badgers do not have the problem of repeated bovine TB. Farmers do need healthy badgers and by participating in the work cattlemen have shown a willingness to co-operate in this, even if in nothing else. The badgers also need help to prevent the spread of TB within their population. In many TB hotspot areas healthy badgers are in decline.
Further information on this project are available from Mr. Gard. Contact details at

Copies of a film showing the basics of this initiative, can be obtained from : at £4.99 inc postage.

Another bTB article in One Health, appearing just below that written by Richard Gard, explains the problems of wild boar as wildlife vectors of bTB in North America. The author warns of the folly of letting bTB establish in feral swine populations :
"At the strategic level, federal and state officials have called for the establishment of a coordinated, comprehensive feral swine control program. To succeed, such a program would likely require legislation and regulatory changes,
coupled with a sustained multidimensional effort involving public education, law enforcement, and feral swine population suppression.
Current efforts to control feral swine, which differ widely among states, are fragmented and only marginally effective.

He concludes with an observation that is is equally valid in the UK:
History has shown that once bovine TB becomes established in a wildlife population, it is very difficult to eradicate the disease. "

One could add that as the longer bTB is allowed to establish, the more difficult and expensive it becomes to eradicate, the sooner we start, the better.


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately the promised 'Further information on this project' at is pretty scant.

Not even any indication of the date/venue for the planned workshop in July 2010 (not much of July left!), let alone how they identify 'healthy' badgers.

Anonymous said...

Found a bit more info on the site:

"When the specific local information is assessed and mapped the extent of the wildlife contribution becomes apparent. However, the wildlife assessment and management approach is based on the experience of a countryman. It would be ideal if scientific proof was available but I’m afraid this way forward is country based."


"Within a cattle farming area in Devon and Cornwall today, assessments have indicated that ten farms would have 200 to 500 badgers. Sett activity indicates that around 10% of the badgers in an area are currently exhibiting unhealthy behaviour. These red unhealthy badgers, living in satellite, abandoned and small setts and the skanky badgers living a solo existence, do not have normal runs and latrines, but these animals are considered to be the primary source of M. bovis for cattle from wildlife."

Easy then - just cull the red ones.

What next?

Perhaps we could get a dowser in?

Matthew said...

... or we could leave them to eventually end up like that example in the pic?

Very humane.

This initiative is an extension of the clean ring strategy which worked so well 1982-86. Using the cattle tests as sentinels, with fieldcraft backup. But instead of clearing a block area, it aims to identify healthy setts to act as buffers in much larger areas.

It is our understanding that introductions and talks may be booked with the team, using Richard Gard as the link. So if Badger Groups or Wildlife Trusts are interested in finding out more, then give the man a call.

If you throw this out of the pram, what would you prefer? Wipe out from North Staffs to Dorset, and all points west? Because after two decades of prevarication, that is the scale of the problem now.

joven said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Matthew said...

Previous comment deleted - spam.

To any other posters - the clue is in the thread title.