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?

Significant knowledge gaps exist in the body of research on wildlife health in Malawi and the collection and analysis of baseline data will be beneficial for informing conservation strategies locally, regionally, and nationally.

Our program, Clinical Projects in One Health, leads clinical interventions, passive disease surveillance, and several targeted research projects in and around Malawi’s protected wildlife areas. People and animals live in close proximity in Malawi due to widespread reliance on domestic livestock, high human population density, and increasing settlement and soil cultivation adjacent to protected conservation areas. These factors all increase the risk of disease emergence for people, wildlife, and domestic animals. Through the collection of data, we are trying to achieve a better understanding of health and disease at the human-domestic-wildlife interface.

Where is this project be based?

The project is based at Lilongwe Wildlife Centre and in and around 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 interaction. 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 project is directed by LWT’s Head Veterinarian, Dr Amanda Lee Salb, alongside CPOH’s project manager, Dr. Hezy Anholt, who manages the day to day data collection and clinical interventions. Drs. Salb and Anholt are supported by the on-site team, which includes veterinary research externs, Kuti WR rangers, and other Kuti and LWT support personnel.

(Note that while there will be opportunities for volunteers who do not have specific experience in the future, we are currently focusing on participation from those who have a veterinary background.)

Resident zebra

What does the project entail?

Clinical Projects in One Health will begin by focusing on three objectives:

  1. Establish a baseline for health monitoring and evaluation for selected wildlife species within Kuti WR
  2. Survey potential zoonoses in domestic companion animals around the reserve
  3. Examine pathogens and their effect on the health of both domestic and wild hoofstock

In the first year, the primary focus is on wildlife health monitoring and evaluation (M&E) within the reserve itself, with additional select health surveillance for domestic animals and livestock in the adjacent villages. The main activities initially focus on:

  • Zoonotic fecal pathogens in monkeys around the reserve
  • Fecal pathogens in hoofstock, with special attention to helminths affecting production in domestic livestock and body condition in wild hoofstock
  • Rodent vectors for selected bacterial infections
  • Fecal helminths in domestic dogs in villages around the reserve, especially those with zoonotic potential

Year 2 will use Year 1’s data to:

  • Identify potential disease risks to Kuti’s wildlife populations and develop appropriate mitigation and monitoring strategies
  • Develop a targeted surveillance, diagnosis and treatment of domestic animals and livestock within the surrounding communities.
  • Investigate the prevalence of potential zoonoses identified in Year 1 in humans and their effect on human health

In Year 3, monitoring and evaluation of interventions will inform strategies for continuation and degree of intervention for domestic animal and wildlife.  Year 2’s data will provide the information necessary to target appropriate human health interventions.

Twizzler the bushbuck
Twizzler the bushbuck

Projects in this program 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 and analysis including field work, laboratory analysis, clinical interventions, and data entry.  Students are based in Kuti WR. and work will entail a combination of non-invasive wildlife sample collection and clinical cases with the majority of clinical work taking place in the villages surrounding Kuti WR. Students are trained on relevant procedures and involved in data collection of whatever species is being focused on that week.  They also have the opportunity to independently explore the wilderness in Kuti WR and surrounding environs (Salima and Senga Bay).

Want to get involved in this project?
 Email us at lilongwewildlife@gmail.com for more information.