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"Transfrontier Conservation Area Initiatives in Sub-Saharan Africa: Some Animal Health Challenges"

Roy Bengis

As Africa’s conservation areas come under increasing pressure from expanding human resource needs, the transfrontier conservation area (TFCA) initiatives are a welcome breath of “fresh air” from a biodiversity conservation point of view. In addition, the integration of land across international borders, as well as the consolidation of state and privately / communally owned land in joint ventures, may have major positive economic potential for the specific region. These initiatives are strongly supported by conservationists, eco-tourism enterprises and the public at large, because they are the first tangible moves that may reverse the current encroachment experienced by existing and established conservation and wilderness areas, as expanding local communities battle to survive the onslaughts of nature’s climatic fluctuations and plagues which threaten their food security. The TFCA vision explores the possibility that the changing of land-use practices, from subsistence farming on marginal land to community participation in eco-tourism based enterprises, may have sustainable economic and ecologic benefits for all.

In the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, there are currently seven TFCA’s, involving land from two or more participating countries that have already been established OR are in the process and have political support with international agreements at various stages of development and planning. A further fifteen potential TFCA’s have been identified by the Peace Parks Foundation in the SADC sub-region.

It is definitely not the intention of this paper to portray these environmental conservation initiatives in a negative light. The message that needs to be conveyed however, is that all parties involved should enter these initiatives with their eyes “wide open,” forewarned of the potential animal health implications and challenges that may be expected when increasing the currently existing geographic range of certain animal pathogens and disease vectors. It is totally predictable that without international boundary barrier fences and with biological bridges being formed by contiguous wildlife populations, any contagious / infectious disease or vector present in any one of the participating countries or areas may eventually spread throughout the entire TFCA. Potentially problematic infections should be identified early by surveillance and monitoring, and pro-active joint containment and control measures should be established when and where necessary.

These animal disease issues may also be compounded by the enlarging wildlife / livestock interface which may negatively impact on adjoining communities. This paper deals with some of the more problematic animal infections and disease vectors that have been identified in certain TFCA’s.

bengis

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Biography for Roy Bengis

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