News - 2010
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Kenya Wildlife Service reaches out to Africa in technical training

Date Published: 31 May, 2010
Kenya Wildlife Service reaches out to Africa in technical training

Mr. Omondi (with red tie) and Dr. Gakuya on his immediate right, posing with participants in Morendat Training & Conference Center, Naivasha

Emerging and re-emerging diseases some of them pandemic in proportions, pose great threat to biodiversity conservation, public health and livestock industry. For instance, following the recent scare of H5N1 (Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza) still fresh in the public mind, the need for early detection and preparedness mechanisms for rapid response cannot be gainsaid. This coupled with ease of trans-boundary spread of pathogens calls for greater vigilance through synergetic disease surveillance at national and international level.  For wildlife and livestock in many parts of Africa, rinderpest as an example caused a catastrophic decline in numbers of vulnerable hoofed species where countries with confirmed cases of the disease were banned from international trade in livestock products resulting in great economic losses. In Kenya, the last case of rinderpest virus circulation was reported in Meru National Park in the year 2003 and since then, KWS in collaboration with other stakeholders has been involved in a decade long wildlife disease surveillance missions which by last year saw the relentless efforts bore fruit when the country was declared free from the disease by the World Organisation of Animal Health (OIE). Preparation for celebrations of the declaration is underway and there is a proposal to erect a monument in Meru National Park where the last positive cases were reported. KWS is working closely with the Department of Veterinary Services in the Ministry of Livestock Development and other stakeholders on the preparations.

It is against this background that The African Union’s Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) and other international agencies such as Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has started training on wildlife capture and sampling techniques for disease surveillance in collaboration with competent wildlife institutions such as the veterinary services department of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) from the African Caribbean Pacific countries (ACP).

Under the auspices of the Support Program to Integrated National action Plans on Avian and Human Influenza (SPINAP-AHI) the training targets 94 participants from 47 SPINAP-supported ACP countries and will be conducted in eastern, southern and western African regions. The main objective of the training is to address gaps identified among the countries to enable them undertake disease surveillance on wild birds and mammalian species. It will also serve as an opportunity to strengthen regional networks on wildlife health in Africa.

For the eastern Africa region, the training was kick started with a five days training workshop that started on 12th to 16th April 2010 at the Morendat Training and Conference Center in Naivasha. KWS hosted this training workshop through funding by FAO and collaborative efforts of AU-IBAR. Some 26 participants from 14 African countries, i.e. Chad, Botswana, Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Sudan, Somali, Burundi, Nigeria, and Niger attended the training with participants drawn from various wildlife health backgrounds.

At the official opening ceremony speech, Mr. Patrick Omondi our Senior Assistant Director, on behalf of the Director of KWS reiterated the need for continued improvement on technological advancement in disease surveillance and management. He praised the idea of sharing knowledge on wildlife health among the African professionals as a noble one and described the support from FAO as a gift towards sustainable conservation of wildlife. Mr. Omondi stated that the ideal for ‘Wildlife immobilization for disease surveillance should be to ensure that animal are captured in the most humane way, released back into the wild intact with their natural abilities to freely feed and defend themselves. That the samples collected should be of high analytical quality.

He wished the training would become an annual event to give opportunity to many. His wishes were similarly echoed by majority of the participants who also desired that the course period would have been longer. The participants described their experience at the end of the workshop as a ‘rare opportunity’ that ought to be replicated across Africa.  KWS senior veterinarians Drs Francis Gakuya, David Ndeereh and Isaac Lekolool trained the participants on the various approaches of wildlife capture and disease surveillance using the vast knowledge and experience they have acquired over the years. They were supported by 2 external trainers, Drs Richard Kock and Tracy McCracken from Zoological Society of London and FAO-Wildlife Unit respectively.

The next training workshop for the Central Africa region that encompasses the 12 states of Gabon, Central Africa Republic (CAR), Congo Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Cameroon, Chad, Djibouti, Sao Tome and Principe, Comoros, Equatorial Guinea, Burundi and Madagascar is scheduled to take place in Gabon from 1st to 6th June 2010. Our two senior veterinarians Drs. David Ndeereh and Isaac Lekolool who happen to have extensive hands on experience on wildlife capture and disease surveillance have been nominated as trainers from KWS during the entire training season.