Human, biodiversity and environmental health are intrinsically interconnected and profoundly influenced by human activities. However, this balance is being disrupted by human-induced change of landscapes and seascapes, and has greatly increased the frequency of infectious disease events over recent decades. Infectious diseases threaten the welfare and conservation of wildlife across terrestrial, freshwater, and marine habitats. The most rapid infectious disease rises are in zoonotic transmissions from wildlife. These events occur where people, livestock, and wildlife are in close proximity, and are therefore most pronounced at the forestfarmland interface. Livestock (pigs and poultry in particular) often facilitate disease transmission pathways from wildlife to people.
This is highly relevant to WCS-IP’s landscapes, where high-risk interfaces are created when forest is cleared, degraded, or fragmented, primarily by agricultural expansion that introduces livestock and infrastructure development. These interfaces increase hunters’ access to the forest and resident wildlife. To prevent future viral outbreaks, it is critical to stop the trade in wildlife for human consumption, especially of birds and mammals which pose the highest risk of disease spillover.
The main barriers to preventing and controlling disease spillovers and outbreaks include the following: weak inter-governmental cooperation, information sharing and responses (notably amongst wildlife, environmental, agriculture, and health agencies); inadequate human resources and expertise (e.g. veterinarians); and, limited funds to monitor, detect, and rapidly respond to prevent or control outbreaks. Additionally, the One Health policy framework has a heavy focus on human aspects of infectious diseases and on specific locations (i.e. exit and entry trade points), resulting in a lack of protocols for dealing with disease outbreaks and a limited number of field programs to close zoonotic disease transmission pathways. These efforts are further hindered by low levels of awareness and understanding of these diseases, including pathogen evolution and spillover, within government, meaning resources and/or actions are not prioritized.
We are supporting MoEF to strengthen its efforts to implement a One Health approach that integrates environmental, wildlife and human health. Our strategy prioritizes an approach that addresses emerging infectious disease enablers, such as addressing IWT and commercial wild meat consumption (Wildlife Trade and Policy Program). This will be supported through actions that address diseases at the livestock-wildlifeforest interface and support rural livelihoods in our landscapes. Our field measures will enable improved animal husbandry practices, as part of our human-tiger conflict mitigation work, with livestock vaccination and community outreach aimed at creating a clear understanding of the linkages between people, wildlife, livestock health, and environmental health (Forests Program).
At the national level, we will raise awareness and develop a common understanding of the presence, prevalence, and impact of emerging infectious diseases on wildlife and human health (including a new partnership with Preventing Pandemics at the Source), as well as the contributing factors, which will be identified through a scientific study (Science & Technology Unit). This will support our analysis of the public health risks caused by wildlife trade and the gaps identified in existing laws to mitigate those risks, including barriers to inter-agency coordination. In combination, this work will be used to support enhanced monitoring of disease outbreaks by government partners and formulate regulatory reforms and site-based actions, such as SMART Health. We will prioritize three key policies by ensuring the inclusion of One Health aspects in pertinent regulations, including Conservation Law No. 5/1990, Quarantine Law No. 21/2019 on ‘Animal, Fish, and Plant Quarantine’, and Law No. 6/2018 on ‘Health Quarantine’, in addition to their derivative regulations. Our One Health work will support MoEF and strengthen partnerships with the IUCN, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, UNEP, World Health Organization and World Organization for Animal Health, and, by extension, their government partnerships, including the ministries of Agriculture and Health.