Wildlife Mortality Monitoring Network for Human and Wildlife Health

WCS Republic of Congo
Published: 20 June 2022
Last edited: 08 July 2022
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Summary

In the Republic of the Congo, a 2005 Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak had a human mortality rate of more than 80%, and an estimated 5,000 great apes also died. In partnership with the government, WCS set up an early warning system for EVD, working with hunters, forest communities, and rangers to monitor wildlife health through a carcass monitoring and sampling network, whilst promoting best practices in disease risk reduction for these communities that rely on bushmeat as a source of protein. The community-based wildlife mortality monitoring network raises awareness among communities and covers more than 30,000 km2 in in northern Congo, an area home to 60% of the world’s gorillas. When a hunter reports a carcass, a response team travels to the site to safely collect samples from the carcass for testing. Once the sample is collected, it is sent to the national laboratory for analysis and the team returns to the reporting village with results and to reinforce health messages.

Classifications

Region
West and Central Africa
Scale of implementation
Local
National
Subnational
Ecosystem
Forest ecosystems
Tropical deciduous forest
Tropical evergreen forest
Theme
Access and benefit sharing
Culture
Indigenous people
Local actors
Not listed
One Health
Outreach & communications
Protected and conserved areas management planning
Science and research
Species management
Traditional knowledge
Species Conservation and One Health Interventions
Wildlife Health Surveillance (to capture biodiversity, health, disease, and pathogen surveillance)
Species Disease Early warning systems
Risk communication, community engagement and behaviour change
Risk assessment
Outbreak investigation and access to laboratory
One Health coordination mechanism
One Health
Animal health
Biodiversity-health nexus
Food systems
Good governance of landscapes
Health effects of climate change and pollution
Health related aspects of socio-economic factors such as poverty, education, social security structures, digitalisation, financing systems, human capacity development 
Neglected tropical diseases, emerging infectious diseases, non-communicable diseases, zoonoses, antimicrobial resistance
Water, sanitation and hygiene
Wildlife trade and human-wildlife conflicts
Challenges
Erratic rainfall
Increasing temperatures
Land and Forest degradation
Loss of Biodiversity
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Ecosystem loss
Poaching
Unsustainable harvesting incl. Overfishing
Infrastructure development
Lack of access to long-term funding
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Physical resource extraction
Changes in socio-cultural context
Health
Lack of food security
Lack of infrastructure
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Lack of technical capacity
Poor monitoring and enforcement
Unemployment / poverty
Sustainable development goals
SDG 2 – Zero hunger
SDG 3 – Good health and well-being
SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth
SDG 10 – Reduced inequalities
SDG 12 – Responsible consumption and production
SDG 15 – Life on land
SDG 17 – Partnerships for the goals
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 2: Biodiversity values integrated
Target 3: Incentives reformed
Target 4: Sustainable production and consumption
Target 12: Reducing risk of extinction
Target 17: Biodiversity strategies and action plans
Target 18: Traditional knowledge
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge
Target 20: Mobilizing resources from all sources
Sendai Framework
Target 1: Reduce global disaster mortality by 2030
Target 2: Reduce the number of affected people globally by 2030
Target 5: Increase the number of countries with national and local disaster risk reduction strategies by 2020
Target 6: Enhance international cooperation to developing countries through adequate and sustainable support to complement their national actions for implementation of this Framework by 2030
Target 7: Increase the availability of and access to multi-hazard early warning systems and disaster risk information and assessments to the people by 2030
Business engagement approach
Direct engagement with a company

Location

Republic of the Congo

Challenges

Isolated subsistence communities in the northern Republic of Congo often lack access to health care and health education. Subsistence hunting is critical for food security but is increasingly threatened by commercial wildlife trade to urban and peri-urban communities. A wildlife carcass can seem like a great opportunity for food. However, these carcasses can pose significant health threats, in particular, in this region, from Ebola virus which is often deadly for both great apes and humans. This network first builds trust with local hunting communities, increases awareness of health threats, and encourages participation in an early warning system, expanding wildlife mortality monitoring across thousands of kilometers of key great ape habitat. The introduction of rapid carcass-side testing brings results to the community immediately, aiding in their engagement and ability to implement protective measures when needed.

Beneficiaries

- Local communities

- People connected through trade and travel networks with local communities: disease outbreaks spread, as has been witnessed in prior Ebola virus disease outbreaks

- Great Apes 

- Wildlife conservation

How do the building blocks interact?

Developing effective wildlife surveillance and response networks for One Health requires engagement with local communities on the frontlines and communication, trust, network, coordination, and multi-sectoral capacity building from local to national levels.

Impacts

In the last 10 years, hunters from more than 260 villages have engaged in the program. Over 6,660 hunters and thousands more women and children are now aware of potential risks associated with coming into contact with dead animals where cause of death is unknown. Almost 100 carcasses have been reported, analyzed, and tested negative for the Ebola virus at the national laboratory in Brazzaville, and over 40 people in Northern Congo have been trained on the sampling protocol. Central Africa remains a high-risk region, but the Republic of the Congo, home to the largest population of gorillas, has not experienced an Ebola epidemic since 2005. Moreover, return visits and conversations with village leaders reveal risky contacts with wildlife carcasses are being avoided and reduced. Efficient sample analysis is an essential step to effective zoonoses monitoring and response. Analysis once took several weeks and needed to be done in a different country. This was reduced to two days with in-country Ebola testing capacity thanks to efforts of multiple partners. WCS is currently working on the implementation of a portable diagnostic tool that would allow real-time testing directly at the site where a carcass is found, reducing testing time from two days to one hour, allowing safety measures to be immediately implemented in the event of a positive result.

Contributed by

lKeatts_41893's picture

Lucy Keatts WCS