Challenges in Livestock, Wildlife, and Human Health in Communities near Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda

What: Megan Lee will be presenting on her experience working in Uganda through Expanding Horizons.  She will be making Ugandan curried potatoes, beans, rice, and chicken stew.  You can RSVP here.

When: Thursday, November 2, 6-7pm

Where: S1-222 in the vet school

EVENT: On The Wild Side: Navigating Conflict Between Private and Public Lion Conservation Interests at Antelope Park, Zimbabwe

Shanina Halbert will be giving an Expanding Horizons presentation on her experience in Zimbabwe.  Shanina will be making roasted squash and a traditional drink for the first 30 people.

When: Thursday, October 26 from 6-7 pm.

Where: S1-222, at the vet school

Focus on Planetary Health at the Tropical Biology and Conservation Lightning Symposium

The worlds of veterinary medicine, public health, conservation, and ecology came together during Saturday’s Tropical Biology and Conservation Lightning Symposium.  The symposium consisted of 23 five minute talks, given by veterinary students, graduate students, undergraduate students, and professors.  Dr. Steven Osofsky DVM, Jay Hyman Professor of  Wildlife Health & Health Policy, gave the hour-long keynote speech.

Dr. Steve Osofsky discussing human health as an opportunity for conservationists.

Dr. Osofsky discussed a wide range of topics from Canine Distemper in Amur tigers, to rhino conservation, to Foot and Mouth Disease in African livestock.  The presentation shifted to a human focus as he discussed how economically disadvantaged areas benefit greatly from ecosystem services.  Osofsky spoke about Dr. Christopher Golden’s research in Madagascar, which showed how villages with low levels of wildlife had higher rates of childhood anemia.  Some of the villages had allowed outsiders to hunt the local wildlife, reducing the amount of bush meat available for the local population.  Dr. Osofsky noted that “by educating the villages themselves, they all of a sudden saw wildlife as relevant to the future of their entire family lineage.”  He concluded his talk by explaining the term “Planetary Health” and emphasizing the opportunity that human health provides to conservationists.

Sarah Balik discussing her research on Chimpanzee respiratory diseases.

For the rest of the symposium, students gave five minute “lightning talks” on their research in different fields.  Veterinary student Sarah Balik (’19) presented her work with the Jane Goodall Institute in Uganda on respiratory diseases in chimpanzees.  In the spirit of planetary health, she compared data collected from locals during health screenings to data on respiratory diseases in wild chimpanzees, to determine the relationship between human-chimpanzee contact and disease outbreaks.  Balik found that there was no correlation between the timing of outbreaks of human and chimpanzee respiratory disease.  “This is a preliminary epidemiological study, so further research needs to be done to determine what is causing so many chips to die of respiratory disease in Kibale. In addition, researchers and workers at the field site spend much more time in contact with the chimps. Foreign researchers weren’t included in the study and have the potential to bring diseases with them, so biosecurity measures also need to be taken to prevent researchers from transmitting disease to the chimpanzees they work with,” Balik said.

Melissa Hanson (’19), another vet student who worked through the Jane Goodall Institute, discussed her experience working with cardiologists on wild chimpanzees in the Republic of the Congo.  Several veterinary students talked about infectious disease, such as Eric Teplitz (’20) who presented his work in Malawi on the shedding patterns of Salmonella and Shigella in primates, Rachel Hilliard (’19) who discussed her research on tick-borne diseases in goats within Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda, and William Fugina (’19) who worked with the World Wildlife Fund in Indonesia to study the vector biology of Trypanosoma evansi, a pathogen in water buffalo that threatens the critically endangered Javan rhinoceros.

Molly Chirunomula talking about her work with the Ara Project.

Molly Chirunomula (’19) worked with the Ara Project in Costa Rica, which aims to conserve local macaw species.  The center was unable to breed their great green macaws.  Molly conducted an intake study of the macaws’ diets to try to identify nutritional causes of poor reproductive success.  She found that the macaws were consuming low levels of fat, protein, and calcium, all of which are important for egg production.  Molly recommended a change in diet that would mimic the birds’ natural seasonal dietary variation, and exclude animal protein.  By implementing Molly’s recommendations, the Ara Project succeeded in breeding macaws by the next breeding season!

Zack Dvornicky-Raymond (’19) worked with the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia, which serves to address a serious threat to the cheetah population: farmers hunting cheetahs to prevent them from killing livestock.  The Cheetah Conservation Fund breeds guard dogs for farmers, to give them an alternative way to protect their livestock.  When Zack started working with the organization, they were having difficulties breeding the dogs.  Zack, who has prior experience in canine reproduction through the Travis lab at Cornell, helped to diagnose the problems in their breeding program and develop protocols for more successful breeding in the future.

Robert Marquez explaining strategies for protecting the Andean bear.

Of the non-veterinary talks, some were aimed at wildlife conservation, such those of Robert Marquez, who studied conflicts between humans and Andean bears, and Steven Sevillano-Rios, who worked to identify conservation priorities in order to protect Peruvian birds.  Other talks were about basic science, such as Jay Falk’s presentation on female limited polymorphisms in hummingbirds.  Dr. James Lassoie finished off the five minute presentations with a critical discussion about the unintended consequences of conservationism.

Overall, the symposium successfully brought together researchers and students from across campus, tackling a diverse array of tropical conservation and ecological problems.  Many speakers emphasized the importance of working with local communities and other disciplines to achieve both conservation and human health goals.  Dr. Osofsky opined – “if we do this next year, I want to see more economists, students from the business school, communication students, social scientists…”  Hopefully, future symposia will further bridge the gap between disciplines, helping the academic community pursue One Health.

 

Complete list of speakers at the Tropical Biology and Conservation Symposium


Written by Jonathan Gorman, Events Journalist and Photographer, Class of 2021.

Expanding Horizons Bio: Eric Teplitz (2020)

Eric Teplitz (2020) in Malawi through the Expanding Horizons program at CUCVM

My name is Eric Teplitz and I am a rising 2nd year veterinary student at Cornell. With an interest in infectious disease epidemiology, I participated in the Expanding Horizons Program with the goal of gaining applied research experience in the field. I established my research project with the Silent Heroes Foundation and the Lilongwe Wildlife Trust in Malawi, an organization that promotes wildlife rescue & research, advocacy, and conservation education. Illegal bushmeat and pet trading are prevalent practices in Malawi that are destructive to ecological health and biodiversity. The Lilongwe Wildlife Centre was established as a sanctuary for animals subjected to such crimes and aims to rehabilitate and release them into the wild.

I have been at the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre for the past seven weeks, and I have another two weeks before returning home. In my free time, I’ve had several opportunities to travel, visiting South Luangwa National Park in Zambia and Liwonde National Park in Malawi. I’ve also had the unique experience of scuba diving in Lake Malawi, which has a greater diversity of fish species than any other lake on Earth!

My research objective is to provide additional information for the Lilongwe Wildlife Trust’s primate release program. Release strategies of captive wildlife are based on several factors that determine if, when, and how an animal will be reintroduced. One such factor is the risk of disease transmission from reintroduced animals to wildlife populations and humans, as failure to evaluate these risks can lead to unintended disease communication.

Salmonella and Shigella are groups of bacteria that colonize the intestine and cause diarrhea and inflammation of the gut lining. They are spread via fecal-oral transmission – the bacteria are shed in the feces and subsequently ingested by another animal. These bacteria infect nonhuman primates and humans globally and are therefore critically important for both wildlife conservation and public health. Unfortunately, Salmonella and Shigella are difficult to treat medically, and consequently studying the patterns of shedding is important for informing disease management strategies through an understanding of transmission dynamics. At the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre, I am studying the shedding patterns of Salmonella and Shigella in primates.

The primary objective of my project is to identify temporal shedding patterns of Salmonella and Shigella as well as risk factors that affect shedding. Some examples include stress, age, sex, body condition, patient history, and concurrent parasitic infection. I designed a sampling schedule upon arrival, and currently I am collecting fecal samples for bacterial culture and diagnosing parasitic infections via fecal flotation. I have been evaluating stress through behavioral analysis, monitoring for behaviors that characteristically indicate stress in primates (such as pacing, self-grooming, and excessive scratching).

The project involves components of microbiology, primatology, and epidemiology, and the interdisciplinary expertise I gained during my first year of veterinary school has allowed me to conduct my research successfully. Designing and implementing an epidemiology study has been a useful learning experience as I find ways to adapt to logistical and technical constraints while in Malawi. Throughout the past several weeks, I have become more familiar with the procedures for primate integrations and reintroductions, which has guided my experimental design so that I can provide the most important information. In my remaining two weeks in Lilongwe, I will do my best to produce useful data!

China’s Promise: stopping the trade in elephant ivory

A message brought to you by the Cornell Elephant Listening Project.

In a time of global uncertainty and increased tension, elephants have just been given their best chance of survival since the start of Africa’s exploitation centuries ago. China’s president Xi Jinping has followed through on an agreement with Barak Obama to commit to a timetable for reducing the brutal demand for ivory that is wiping out Africa’s elephants.

China has promised that it will have stopped domestic trade in ivory by the end of 2017. China represents the world’s largest ivory market.  If the bottom drops out of the market, the incentives to kill will drop, too.

As WildAid said so well:

“When the buying stops, the killing can too”

We need to recognize that ending trade will be very difficult, and it is important to empathize with the many artisans who will lose jobs.  But this is intervention is a critical step towards saving the African elephant, and it is intervention on a scale that will make a difference.

While it is our responsibility to recognize positive steps, we also must raise our voices when needed so that the promise is kept.  Spread the news about this trade ban, and help China receive recognition for following through on this important promise.

The bar has been set – thank you, China.

Stay Connected:

March 3rd: World Wildlife Day!

On 20 December 2013, at its 68th session, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) proclaimed 3 March, the day of signature of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), as UN World Wildlife Day to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants. The UNGA resolution also designated the CITES Secretariat as the facilitator for the global observance of this special day for wildlife on the UN calendar.

World Wildlife Day will be celebrated in 2017 under the theme “Listen to the Young Voices.” Given that almost one quarter of the world’s population is aged between 10 and 24, vigorous efforts need to be made to encourage young people, as the future leaders and decision makers of the world, to act at both local and global levels to protect endangered wildlife.

The engagement and empowerment of youth is high on the agenda of the United Nations and this objective is being achieved through the youth programmes of various UN system organizations as well as the dedicated UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth.

In September 2016, Parties to CITES gathered in Johannesburg, South Africa, at the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP17) and adopted the very first CITES resolution on ‘Youth Engagement’ – calling for greater engagement and empowerment of youth in conservation issues.

World Wildlife Day 2017 encourages youth around the world to rally together to address ongoing major threats to wildlife including habitat change, over-exploitation or illicit trafficking. Youth are the agents of change. In fact, we are already seeing the positive impacts on conservation issues made by some young conservation leaders around the world. If they can help make a change, you can too!

Governments, law makers, enforcement officers, customs officials and park rangers across every region are scaling up their efforts to protect wildlife. It is also up to every citizen, young and old, to protect wildlife and their habitats. We all have a role to play. Our collective conservation actions can be the difference between a species surviving or disappearing.

It’s time for us all to listen to the young voices.

Read more at wildlifeday.org

Conservation and the Elephant Listening Project

The Elephant Listening Project is a not-for-profit organization associated with the Bioacoustics Research Program at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  ELP strives to study the African forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) through recordings of the forests that serve as their home, picking up both natural and unnatural sounds – not only the calls of elephants to each other, but also the sounds of human involvement.  Graduate and undergraduate students in a variety of fields have contributed to the analysis of this data.

“Over the last twelve years the project called ELP has found ways to discern key aspects of the forest elephants’ life experience (the sizes and composition of their herds, movements of populations from place to place, evidence of mating, maternal responses to infants, evidence of distress and flight, and of the gunshots and chainsaws that reveal poaching) by listening to the forest from fixed recorders in the trees.”

– Katy Payne
Living With Sound, February 2013.

Stay Connected:

Canine Distemper in the Amur Tiger

Dr. Martin Gilbert came to Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2016 as a Senior Research Associate with the Wildlife Health and Health Policy Group.

From Dr. Gilbert’s LinkedIn:

I am interested in pursuing health-related research that has direct relevance to the conservation of wildlife, particularly carnivores and scavengers. This includes approaches to understand how endangered species are impacted at a population level by infectious disease (such as canine distemper virus in free-ranging Amur tigers), as well non-infectious agents (such as the pharmaceutical diclofenac in Asian vultures). Health processes can also impact predator populations indirectly, in circumstances where disease influences the availability of prey resources. In each of these situations disease processes must be understood at a landscape scale, whether through the epidemiology of multi-host pathogens operating across the domestic-wild interface, or through the social drivers that influence the use of toxic compounds in the environment. The road to addressing these issues begins in the field, and requires a multi-disciplinary approach, drawing on a diversity of skills that includes (but is not limited to): ecology, pathology, clinical medicine, molecular biology, microbiology, toxicology, population modelling, spatial analytics, sociology and ultimately policy. By fostering such collaborative partnerships we gain a more complete understanding of wildlife health issues, creating a platform to identify practical measures to mitigate the conservation impact on species in the wild.