DR. FABIOLA QUESADA FERNANDEZ DVM MRCVS FOUNDER WILD SPIRIT FUND. CEO WILD SPIRIT
Fabiola is a committed scientist in wildlife conservation medicine, based in Pretoria, South Africa. She obtained her veterinary degree at the Cordoba Veterinary University School, and since then has obtained extensive experience in Africa, working on wildlife medicine and is currently enrolled in a PhD. She has set up the wild spirit fund details of which is available on www.wildspiritfund.org . Wild spirit fund is a non-profit foundation born in Africa and led by an international network of wildlife professionals, scientists and veterinarians. At its pillar are wildlife conservation medicine and one health. The mission is to ensure the health and protection of wildlife in its natural ecosystem.
After emphasising the interrelationships between one health, human health, animal health and environmental health her veterinary webinar begins with some thought -provoking statistics and statements:
- In the past 50 years humanity has wiped out 60% of wild animal populations
- We are living a sixth mass extinction, the first to be caused by a species-Homo sapiens
- Emerging infectious diseases (EIDS) are a direct threat to global health and have quadrupled in humans and wildlife in the past 50 years
- 70% of EIDs in humans are zoonoses
- Between 1970-2020 the world population of humans has doubled. Wild life populations have halved
‘Deforestation, climate change, changes on land use, biodiversity loss, invasive species, and chemical pollution increase then likelihood of many diseases and new disease manifestations’ (Altizer et al, 2011)
Fabiola emphasises key aspects of importance beginning with climate change.
Drought is an obvious consequence and two pictures demonstrate that pictures really are more effective than a thousand words. They show the plights of two hippos having to wallow in mud, with no clean water available, and a very sad photo of a solitary elephant in an obviously nutritionally inadequate environment.
The next session is entitled:
‘Spillover from Domestic Animals affecting Wildlife?’
Diseases discussed are bovine tuberculosis affecting buffaloes and lions, distemper affecting lions (1994 Serengeti outbreak killed 30% of lions) and also bat-eared foxes, African wild dogs, spotted hyenas and jackals. The Ethiopian wolf and Amur tiger are considered critically endangered.
We move on to the subject of wild dogs and rabies. Wild dogs are one of the highest endangered carnivores in Africa. They are highly susceptible to rabies, with rapid spread and death occurring within hours.
Much disease can be attributable to stressed wild populations. Habitat changes, fragmentation, genetic impacts road kills and trade are all mentioned, before a disturbing discussion of poaching, bush meat and illegal trade
An unpleasant picture of the effects of a snare is shown, along with some orphaned wild cats kittens. A restaurant menu illustrates the type of bush meat on offer, virtually any local wild animal including crocodile, gazelle, and pangolin.
This leads to an academic and very topical analysis of coronavirus transmission from wildlife to humans with a summary of science based facts and knowledge about wild animals, zoos and SARS-COV-2 virus. Of great value to those studying this subject in depth, several key articles are cited. Another summary lists key fact aspects of HIV, Ebola and SARS-2-COVID19, with some chilling details of human activity that has triggered these diseases. HIV alone has caused 33 million human deaths so far, with transmission, it is suggested, from HIV-1 in chimpanzees and gorillas, and HIV-2 in mangabey monkeys being triggered as a result of poaching, illegal trade and consumption of great ape meat and mangabeys.
There is further detail on Ebola, with another shocking statistic. Current estimates suggest that 1/3rd of the world’s gorillas and chimpanzees have died from Ebola since the 1990s. A graph demonstrates the link between forest fragmentation in Africa and Ebola virus outbreaks.
Wildlife can also be victims of transmission from human disease. Factors involved in this include encroachment, tourism, close monitoring, and veterinary research work. These are all risk factors of transmission of disease from humans to great apes.
Proven human to great ape diseases transmitted in the wild include:
- Respiratory diseases
- Polio-like diseases
- Measles-like diseases
- Enteric helminths and protozoa
- Salmonella, E. coli and Shigella
- Antibiotic resistance
These are all discussed in considerable detail with key references, and ends with a warning:
‘For the extinction of the species to continue occurring, along with the disruption of nature’s balance all we need to keep doing is NOTHING’
The last part of this packed- full veterinary webinar ends on a positive note with the efforts of Fabiola and her foundation The Wild Spirit Fund to tackle the massive problems outlined in her presentation. This is best accessed and studied via the website mentioned at the beginning, which I repeat here
The amount of work that has gone into the preparation of this webinar is quite incredible. I suggest viewing it in segments, taking photos of the slides, particularly those summarising articles, and then reflecting on them, before moving on to the next segment. That Fabiola remains positive in the face of what she has seen and encountered is inspirational.