CLINICAL PROJECTS IN ONE HEALTH

What is One Health?

One Health is defined as “the integrative effort of multiple disciplines working together to attain optimal health for people, animals, and the environment”. It is a holistic approach that acknowledges the inextricable links between this triad that can have far-reaching effects for wildlife and neighbouring communities.

Why is LWT’s Clinical Projects in One Health important?

There is a paucity of research on wildlife health in Malawi. The collection and analysis of baseline data can inform conservation strategies locally, regionally, and nationally. People and animals live in close proximity in Malawi due to widespread reliance on domestic livestock, high human population density, and settlement near protected wildlife areas. Our programme, Clinical Projects in One Health (CPOH), leads passive disease surveillance, clinical interventions, and several targeted research projects in and around Malawi’s protected wildlife areas. Through research and community engagement, we are trying to achieve a better understanding of health and disease at the human-domestic-wildlife interface.

Where is this project based?

The project is based at the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre and at Kuti Wildlife Reserve, a small (2000 hectare) protected area with a diverse and prolific wildlife population. Kuti is surrounded by farming communities and has a long history of community engagement. There are no ‘big five’ at Kuti, which makes for much safer fieldwork, and students will have the opportunity to get to know Africa’s lesser-known (but no-less splendid) wildlife species, such as bushbabies, genets, civets, hornbills, pythons, and more than ten species of antelope, not to mention zebra, warthog, and giraffe.

Who is working on the project?

The programme is managed by veterinarian Dr. Hezy Anholt, and supported by a community outreach officer, research externs, park management and park rangers, and other Kuti and LWT support personnel.

Note that we are currently recruiting students who have at least one year of university or college training in biology, agriculture, or health sciences. We also offer research placements for graduate students (Masters and PhD).

Resident zebra

CPOH projects include:

Zebra monitoring – we are using the unique individual stripe patterns of zebra to compile a photo log of the herds at Kuti Wildlife Reserve. This allows us to identify sick individuals so that we can monitor their health and track disease processes. There are also benefits when it comes to anti-poaching efforts; we can identify which individuals are carrying snares, or if an animal goes missing our photo log can help us document that. The individual IDs also inform genetic studies and are critical to capture-recapture models from which animal abundance and density can be estimated. This data is then applied directly to wildlife management decisions in the park.

African Swine Fever – we are using camera traps to identify warthog burrows and bushpig habitat, then sifting through the soil in search of Ornithodoros ticks. This is part of a larger study of African Swine Fever in Malawi and the risk that wild suids (e.g. bushpigs and warthogs) may pose (or not pose) to domestic pig production.

Parasite ecology – we are collecting fecal parasitology data on vervets and baboons, with a particular focus on parasitic roundworms and their implications for human and non-human primate health. We are also investigating the presence and significance of Toxocara vitulorum, a parasite of cattle, in wild antelope.   

Community surveillance – our community outreach officer conducts surveys on human-domestic-wildlife interactions and general human and animal health in the surrounding villages.

Passive disease surveillance – we collect baseline health data on wildlife and domestic animals in and around the reserve. This is done through visual assessments, photos, fecal parasitology, other opportunistic sample collection, and necropsy.

How can students be involved in Clinical Projects in One Health?

Students participating in CPOH are involved in all aspects of data collection including field work, laboratory procedures, clinical interventions, and data entry. Students are based at Kuti Wildlife Reserve and the majority of the work focuses on non-invasive wildlife sample collection with some clinical work taking place in the villages surrounding the reserve. Students are trained on relevant procedures and involved in data collection for whatever species and projects are being focused on at that time. Students also have the opportunity to independently explore nature in Kuti Wildlife Reserve and the surrounding environs (Salima and Senga Bay).

Want to get involved in our CPOH programme? Email us at lilongwewildlife@gmail.com for more information.

See here to find out more about other research placements.