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"Protected Areas, Human Livelihoods and Healthy Animals: Ideas for Improvements in Conservation and Development Interventions"

Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka

Effective protected area management is undermined by disease transmission at the wildlife, human and livestock interface. The poorest people in developing countries tend to live at the borders of protected areas where the value of land is often reduced because of the threat of “problem” wildlife. Additionally, most protected areas are found in remote locations with limited access to adequate health facilities both for people and their animals, leading to a persistence of preventable diseases. Zoonotic diseases can be transmitted between wildlife, people and domestic animals in close contact, especially if they are closely related. This can potentially have devastating consequences for public health, wildlife conservation and ecotourism. In certain instances all three sectors can be affected.

An ideal example is the association between people and habituated great apes. In Uganda, scabies skin disease outbreaks in a tourist group of mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) resulted in morbidity and mortality. These outbreaks are thought to have been associated with the relatively high incidence of scabies in the local community. Further scabies outbreaks in another habituated group of mountain gorillas is one of the factors delaying the start of tourism to this group. Ecotourism provides employment for surrounding communities and revenue that is shared for community development. Not only are people’s livelihoods improved, but so is their attitude towards wildlife conservation. This particular case shows that disease prevention measures in wildlife can only be effective if public health is improved. Tuberculosis (TB) and brucellosis are zoonotic diseases that can be transmitted between cattle and people. Around protected areas, frequently these cattle mix with closely related wildlife, such as buffalo (Syncerus caffer) providing an opportunity for disease transmission. This case shows that preventing disease in people can only be done effectively by controlling disease in cattle and wildlife. In both these cases, health education to improve hygiene including boiling milk (TB and brucellosis) and washing clothes (scabies) is necessary.

An integrated approach could be more cost effective in preventing and controlling diseases around protected areas. This could be limited to close collaboration such as sharing knowledge and health information between medical, veterinary and wildlife departments, or could be fully integrated by combining health programs for wildlife, people and their domestic animals. Though most protected areas are in remote locations, some protected areas have relatively good infrastructure for wildlife conservation and ecotourism activities. People in the wildlife and tourism community can improve the situation by extending their resources to improve health service delivery for people and their domestic animals, such as transportation of medication to people in remote areas. To achieve a great impact, multidisciplinary teams from wildlife, medical, veterinary and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sectors should be created to combine expertise in education and health programs. Mutual training programs in wildlife, domestic animal and human health monitoring, as well as sharing of laboratory facilities for disease diagnosis, could help to maximize the use of limited resources while building local capacity and being more sustainable. Research on interrelated conservation and public health issues should be encouraged and results shared with policy makers. Finally, funds from health donors could be given to wildlife conservation where it directly affects public health and similarly funds from conservation donors could be given to public health where it directly affects wildlife conservation. Close collaboration between governments, NGOs, the private sector, universities and schools would be needed to develop efficient and effective programs.


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Biography for Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka

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