About This Project
Caused by protozoa and transmitted by tsetse flies, African trypanosomiasis ranges from subclinical to fatal in many hosts, human, domestic, and wild. Stressed wildlife, such as animals undergoing translocation, can die from the infection. We will test wildlife immobilized for translocations, support park rangers to sample deceased wildlife, and generate maps of heterogeneous tsetse densities to guide wildlife translocation releases.
Ask the ScientistsJoin The Discussion
What is the context of this research?
Trypanosomiasis is a disease entangled with African wilderness. Caused by protozoa and transmitted by tsetse flies, it ranges from subclinical to fatal in human and animal hosts. While human cases are in decline across most of Africa, Malawian cases tripled in 2019. The disease' distribution is shaped by human disturbance; tsetse occupy protected areas where natural habitat persists and preferred host species survive. Wildlife species are the historical disease reservoir but its effects on wildlife health and conservation are unknown. Wildlife under stress can succumb to the infection and it is the suspected cause of death in two rhinos translocated to Malawi. Given trypanosome prevalence in elephant, giraffe, zebra, and lion, the potential risk to translocated wildlife is concerning.
What is the significance of this project?
Wildlife has experienced devastating losses, but recent interventions are having positive impacts. Malawi is experiencing unprecedented conservation successes and many reserves are now safe for the return of megafauna. Knowledge of disease risk is important in guiding translocations and releases. This presents an opportunity to bridge veterinary and public health in the interest of One Health. Rangers are at high risk of infection, and parks are eager for region-specific information that can guide limited resources for tsetse control to areas of greatest need. Deaths are unlikely to occur in translocated animals if infections are known and managed, and while disease risk to naive animals cannot be eliminated, it can be minimized.
What are the goals of the project?
We want to know if trypanosomiasis is associated with morbidity and mortality in translocated wildlife in Malawi. We will focus on one national park and one forest reserve, which are known trypanosomiasis foci and expecting large wildlife translocations over the next 18 months. We will support rangers monitoring wildlife with necropsy training and sampling kits. We will also collect samples from wildlife immobilized for translocations and/or medical treatment. Samples will be tested for trypanosomes using ITS1 rDNA PCR. Using Tsetse Plan, we will develop spatially explicit maps illustrating tsetse densities in the two areas. The maps will inform tsetse control strategies, wildlife release sites, and further epidemiology research.
Wildlife health is challenging to assess. We are privileged to work with outstanding rangers excellent at monitoring translocated animals, but their efforts are stymied by lack of necropsy training, sampling kits, and diagnostics.
31% of the requested budget provides training and equipment to sample for trypanosomes and transport samples from remote areas to the College of Medicine in Blantyre.
31% covers laboratory costs for PCR analysis.
18% supports mapping of heterogeneous tsetse densities for areas anticipating wildlife translocations. This will help managers select safer release sites, inform allocation of limited resources for tsetse control, and create a starting point for further epidemiology research.
9% of the budget is allocated to statistical analysis, interpretation, and thorough dissemination of findings to park managers, government, and the scientific community.
11% covers the experiment.com platform and processing fees.
Ranger training and sampling kit provision will begin October 2020. Sample collection is already underway and will continue until February 2022. Ranger refresher training and sample transport to Blantyre will occur every 8-12 weeks during this 18-month period. Samples will be run in batches. Tsetse mapping will begin in October 2020 and finish by January 2021. Data analysis, interpretation, and results communication will be complete by June 2022.
Aug 01, 2020
Sample collection and PCR analysis has already begun.
Aug 31, 2020
Oct 20, 2020
Travel to national park and deliver ranger training and sampling kits.
Oct 20, 2020
Travel to forest reserve and deliver initial ranger training and sampling kits.
Jan 20, 2021
Tsetse species density mapping complete for forest reserve and national park.
Meet the Team
We are an international and trans-disciplinary group of professionals who have come together due to a shared interest in one health and conservation in Malawi. Together we have decades of experience in African wildlife monitoring, wildlife translocations, veterinary medicine, and trypanosomiasis research.
Ecosystems health is where it's at. Since graduating vet school in 2013, I have been hooked on wildlife-human-livestock health and welfare linkages, and how we can support conservation as veterinarians by promoting and managing wildlife health. In 2016 I completed a zoo medicine internship, and in 2017 I moved to Malawi to develop a one health research program for a conservation NGO. I am happiest doing field work, anesthesia, research, and writing, and have found my 'happy place' in Malawi doing all of these! My goal is to continue working as a wildlife veterinarian in Malawi and to undertake a PhD in veterinary epidemiology.
Matthews Elias Mumba
I'm a proud Wildlife Research Scientist. Upon graduating with Bachelors Degree in Natural Resources Management from Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) in 2016, I joined various NGOs (United Purpose & Plan International Malawi) the same year I graduated. I served as Project Monitor for community resilient building under ECHO-MVAC WFP Protracted Relief Project in Dedza, Malawi from Oct 2016 to Dec 2016. Later I joined Plan International Malawi initially as a Community Development Facilitator Dec, 2016 and later as the Project Facilitator for Plan International Malawi-UNHCR Dzaleka Refugee Camp Project responsible for relief provision to refugees from April 2017 to Dec 2018. In a nutshell, i would say i started my carrier as a humanitarian worker from 2016 to 2018. This kept me reflecting that I needed to grow in real conservation lane where my total passion rests. This prompted me to resign. In no time i joined Department of National Parks and Wildlife as Parks and Wildlife Officer responsible for Wildlife Research and Development matters from Dec 2018 to date. My roles include but not limited to collection, analysis and compilation of biodiversity and ecological information, law enforcement and patrol effort analysis, leading wildlife population censuses and translocations, developing & compiling workplans, conducting human-wildlife conflict assessments and a focal point person for all other wildlife/community related research activities. Being with DNPW Malawi this far, I have attended various conservation trainings both within & beyond Malawi borders which have deepened my wildlife understanding and experience. I am very confident and optimistic this is my appropriate chosen carrier for me. I therefore have a potential to continuously grow in knowledge, skills and expertise in the chosen carrier path.
I am a molecular biologist based in Blantyre Malawi. My research projects include the dynamics of Trypanosoma brucei s.l. in Malawi, with a focus on disease emergence and genome analysis. I have a Master of Science in biomedical sciences from China Medical University, and currently work at the University of Malawi College of Medicine.
Wildlife Action Group Malawi
I have been working in conservation in Africa since 2003, and as head of field operations for Wildlife Action Group in Malawi since 2010. Our team protects over 500 km2 of forest reserve in the Great Rift Valley Escarpment. We do this successfully by focusing on community engagement and human-wildlife coexistence, and combating illegal deforestation and poaching, particularly of elephants. I am a veterinary technician by training and care deeply about conservation research, wildlife health, and animal welfare.
Mike Labuschagne has been working with Malawi's Department of National Parks and Wildlife since 1992 and currently serves as IFAW Director of Law Enforcement for Southern Africa. Mike has lived and worked in a number of National Parks in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. He holds degrees in African Politics and a Master of Business Administration. His current projects include the Kasungu National Park Transformation Program and the Zambia-Malawi Elephant Landscape Program.
Dr. Musaya is associate director of the Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Programme and a senior lecturer at Malawi College of Medicine. Her research interests include transmission dynamics of Trypanosoma and Schistosoma in Malawi, and antimicrobial stewardship and conservation in Africa. She obtained her PhD in immuno-parasitology from the University of Malawi in 2016. Dr. Musaya has a strong interest in removing the gender gap in science research.
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