Shaping the future of animal health
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Find out the 2017 actions and results.


Virbac foundation: animal health at the heart of ecosystems’ health

As part of its mission to raise public awareness of animal health, the Virbac Foundation is promoting a One Health program in Gonarezhou park in Zimbabwe for the second consecutive year. A field action that aims to improve the health conditions of local animal and human populations.

The Great Limpopo cross-border park, to which Gonarezhou park belongs, was created in 2002 to bring together three of the richest wildlife sanctuaries in Southern Africa, straddling over Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa. This exceptional land is today weakened by global warming. In 2016, an extreme drought swept Zimbabwe, threatening the food safety of more than half of the rural population of the country. 

New threats to animals and humans
These cross-border protected areas represent the future in reference to ecosystem conservation. They restore ecological continuity between the various animal populations. However, they are also sources of new health problems, notably through the sharing of natural resources between wild and domestic animals. Zoonoses, diseases communicable to humans by animals, constitute a very real threat for some species, for example rabies for populations of lions and wild dogs. Neighboring communities, made extremely vulnerable by the drought and the depletion of pasture, also face this deadly disease, as well as bovine tuberculosis, which affects wild and domestic buffaloes. Threats are all the more pressing since the loss of biodiversity - linked in particular to deforestation - increases the interface between fauna and human communities.

Rabies vaccination: a health emergency 
vaccination_250.jpgIn this context, in 2016 the Virbac Foundation helped organize a rabies vaccination campaign for domestic dogs in the Mahenye community in the Northern part of Gonarezhou park (the area where cases of human and animal rabies were reported in 2015). It is in this hunting community, who use their dogs to carry out their activities, that rabies risks are the most significant because of the frequent contact between wild carnivores (wild dog, jackal, lion) and domestic carnivores. This initiative is part of the efforts made by global animal and human health organizations to eradicate this disease.

Zoonoses awareness: the condition required for successformation_250.jpg
Vaccination campaigns in this region have also helped to identify the low level of knowledge by local communities regarding the risks related to zoonoses. Indeed, to improve the health status
of the human and animal populations, it is
essential to educate the villagers regarding the identification, prevention and control of these diseases. Therefore, in 2016 the Virbac Foundation helped produce useful teaching materials (manuals, educational posters and presentations) and organize training sessions for the target groups from the Mahenye community which were most concerned by the necessary prophylaxis: dog owners, livestock farmers, schoolchildren and housewives. 

Nutrition: for improved disease resistance
amélioration-eau_200.jpgIn its integrated approach to animal health, the Virbac Foundation also supports measures to improve the nutrition of livestock. In 2016, livestock farmers from the surroundings of Gonarezhou park received training for a new integrated grazing management technique, based on the night plowing of the soil by cattle grouped in mobile enclosures. Used in semi-arid areas, this practice lets farmers restore soil fertility while protecting cattle from predators’ attacks. It is also accompanied by a new water supply system dedicated to livestock which reduces the transmission risk between wild and domestic cattle, and significantly decreases the daily commute for watering the herds. This results in a saving of valuable time for young cattle keepers who can then spend more time studying, given that education represents one of the pivotal elements for breaking the cycle of poverty in these communities.

This One Health program, which is bearing fruits in Gonarezhou park, could be extended in the coming years to other cross-border parks. A pilot cattle vaccination action against anthrax and botulism has already been started in 2017 in Kaza, in the Northwest of Zimbabwe, the largest wildlife conservation area of the world, with notably the highest concentration of elephants.

Gonarezhou 2016: concrete results

• Around 950 dogs vaccinated against rabies
• 1/3 of households educated regarding rabies risks and control methods
• 1/3 of livestock farmers educated regarding zoonoses
• 1/3 of livestock farmers trained in the integrated management technique for semi-arid grazing
• 500 cattle heads benefiting from a replacement water supply system