By Dr. Liz Van Wormer, UC Davis Wildlife Health Center and Dr. Deana Clifford, HALI Project Coordinator
The morning air is warm in Mikumi National Park, Tanzania as wildlife veterinarians and and twenty-three Envirovet Summer Institute participants monitor an immobilized female giraffe. One student leans over confidently, stethoscope in hand, to measure the heart rate while others collect diverse samples for a research project studying an emerging giraffe ear disease. Only a week later, morning finds the group testing domestic zebu cattle for tuberculosis (TB) in a Maasai livestock boma. The students stay alert for signs of TB, (which can be transmitted to other animals and humans) in wildlife as they survey buffalo populations in Ruaha National Park a few days later. The participants then investigate the role of wildlife conflict and the use of irrigation on nearby farms before transitioning to effects of seaweed farming on local livelihoods and the marine environment in Zanzibar.
The common theme uniting these diverse activities is health, and Envirovet Summer Institute is devoted to training veterinarians, veterinary students and wildlife researchers in the techniques, challenges and applications of ecosystem health. This broad topic brings together wildlife, domestic animal, human and environmental health, attracting enthusiastic participants from around the world. Students spend 4 weeks training in the United States emphasizing ecosystem health in the developed world before focusing on issues and skills for developing nations. 2008 marks the first year of the course in Tanzania, a country whose rich wildlife resources and dedication to conservation provide a diverse living laboratory for studying health in terrestrial and marine systems. In settings ranging from rural farms to veterinary investigation centers to large protected areas, the Envirovet students build the unique knowledge, skills and connections to serve as stewards, researchers and advocates of ecosystem health in their future careers.
This year's Envirovet Developing Country Session in Tanzania was hosted by the GLCRSP-Health for Animals and Livelihood Improvement (HALI) Project, with assistance from project partners Sokoine University of Agriculture, University of California Davis, Tanzania National Parks, Wildlife Conservation Society Ruaha Landscape Program, and the Institute for Marine Studies in Zanzibar. Participants hailed from Canada, Mexico, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, India, Tanzania, Uganda and the United States. Assistance from GLCRSP enabled five talented African young professionals to attend this course.