Most of the areas where WCS works are very remote, with limited access to health care. Thus, as well as directly helping to conserve wildlife populations, addressing wildlife and livestock health also helps to improve the livelihoods of local herders by diminishing the risk of disease introduction within their own herds and controlling for the risk of zoonotic disease to humans. WCS veterinary teams have achieved the following:
- Identified risk of avian influenza: Performed the first surveys for Avian Influenza in wild birds and poultry in the provinces of Bamyan, Ghazni, Kabul, Badakhshan and northern Takhar.
- Identified new and economically important livestock pathogens: Confirmed, for the first time in Afghanistan, exposure of livestock to a variety of economically relevant pathogens including bluetongue disease, Q fever and toxoplasmosis, and conducted the first comprehensive study for Afghanistan on the occurrence of glanders in horses and donkeys. The team further uses a combination of partners and stakeholders both in Afghanistan and further afield to carry out advanced serological screening on domestic and wild animals. Tests are done against a variety of diseases including brucellosis, peste des petits ruminants and chlamydophilosis.
- Increased awareness and skills to address wildlife disease: WCS published the first book on wildlife diseases in Afghanistan in Dari and Pashto and distributed 3,000 copies nationwide. In addition, WCS collaborated with the Central Veterinary Diagnostic and Research Laboratory on analysis of samples from wildlife and livestock, and built the capacity of the lab through training and provision of supplies. WCS organized specific training courses on wildlife and zoonotic diseases and delivered these courses to over 200 veterinarians, para-veterinarians and veterinary students.
- Built team of Afghan experts in wildlife disease: Employed, trained and equipped the only team in Afghanistan with expertise in wildlife disease, consisting of two veterinarians and two Wakhan-based paravets. This team has vaccinated approximately 30,000 cattle and domestic yaks against Foot and Mouth Disease in the upper Wakhan between 2009 and 2014, more than 65% of these populations every year. These vaccinations aimed to decrease the risk of disease transmission to susceptible wildlife and improve people’s food security and wealth.