Wildlife Laboratory
 
 

The Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust has established a Wildlife Disease Diagnostics and Research laboratory in Victoria Falls National Park. The laboratory is a field station laboratory that aims to look at zoonotic and transboundary animal diseases. The laboratory analyzes wildlife and domestic animal samples for diseases that can affect a range of species. Some of the functions of the laboratory are serology, haematology, biochemistry, parasitology, molecular biology (PCR), histology and pathology. VFWT do as much of the disease diagnostics on site as possible and then collaborate with other respective laboratories to send out for specific tests done at outside labs. VFWT work with other laboratories around the world to ensure proper quality control is maintained that that the results of each function are qualified.

If you have a disease question or need samples tested, please E-mail our lab at lab@vicfallswildlifetrust.org


 

Disease Surveillance  

The Vic Falls Wildlife Trust has begun a disease sampling program on wildlife in conservation areas throughout Zimbabwe. As many of the diseases that are present in wildlife can be transferred to domestic animals and in some cases to humans, this project helps make assessments as to what diseases are circulating. Sampling is done on wildlife as well as domestic animals to look at prevalence rates of a range of diseases. For more information on the Disease Sampling Program, please click here.

 


 

Tuberculosis  

Tuberculosis (TB) is a major zoonotic disease of importance in Africa. With three major strains of TB present in the region it is of great concern as at least two of these strains can be transmitted across different species. VFWT plays a very active role in screening for different strains of TB in wildlife as well as domestic animals and humans. In 2014 VFWT began a project testing all of the captive elephant and their handlers, in the Victoria Falls/Livingstone area for TB. This strain of TB can be transmitted from humans to elephant. Given the high rates of human TB in the area and the importance of ensuring wildlife and people are healthy, this project will help improve the health of all species.

VFWT screens hundreds of cattle that reside near wildlife areas for bovine TB. Bovine TB is a foreign disease that was introduced through cattle from Europe. Unfortunately, it is an exceptionally virulent form of TB that can be passed on through uncooked meat or unpasteurized milk. Wildlife is also susceptible to TB, and African buffalo play a major role as a reservoir host that contracts the TB through interfaces with cattle, and then they carry the disease. When buffalo are predated upon, the disease can be passed onto carnivores such lions. Hence the spillover effect of TB into other species is important for the conservation of many animals and the health of humans.

In the last few years a new strain of TB has been found in the banded mongoose population around Victoria Falls. Very little is currently known about this strain of TB that is found in mongoose. At the present time VFWT are undertaking a project to assess transmission of this disease.

 

Canine Diseases  
Victoria Falls is a major tourism destination in Africa. It also is located in a major wildlife conservation area. Home to the largest remaining population of Africa elephant in the world, the conservation area spans five countries and also has 1.5 million people and all of their domestic animals living within its borders. A major concern for wildlife conservation is the spread of disease. Canine diseases are some of the diseases that there is a concern about, including rabies. Therefore VFWT in collaboration with other partners works to provide free rabies vaccinations annually to all of the cats and dogs in the Victoria Falls urban area as well as the surrounding rural communities. If we are able to vaccinate 75% of the canine population then we can prevent a rabies outbreak that will affect not just dogs and cats, but humans and wildlife in the area. Other canine diseases that VFWT works with partners to monitor include Distemper, Ehrlichia, and Leptospira. As some of these disease can pass into wildlife species such as Wild Dogs and carnivores such a lion and cheetah, VFWT monitor their prevalence rates. Recently VFWT opened the Community Animal Health and Welfare Centre in a joint collaboration with Veterinarians for Animal Welfare. This facility helps provide treatment to livestock and domestic animals living in the rural areas adjacent to Victoria Falls. For more information on the Centre please click here.