From ZSL vet Misha Goncharuk
To understand infectious disease circulation between domestic and wild populations of carnivores – biological material sampling is not enough. For good epidemiological study, it is also necessary to collect detailed information about targeted animals that exist in study area (their number, sex, age, lifespan, reproduction rate, mortality rate etc.). Although this is extremely complicated in wildlife, it is easier with domestic animals by interviewing their owners. The reason to do it is to try and understand how one or another disease can develop in the area. To put it simpler – it may be possible to foresee and predict disease outbreaks and their consequences. This would be very useful knowledge!
So I want to tell you about a small part of our work that was successfully performed in our study area (which is proposed for the Amur leopard reintroduction and creation of its second reserve population) in the autumn of 2014. It was organized as part of our Amur Leopard and Wildlife health project in cooperation with University of Glasgow in the frame of their Canine Distemper study under supervision of Martin Gilbert.
So, we were going to interview pet owners about different aspects of their history of pet keeping. It was planned to cover much of the area as possible. To do this – we looped in veterinary students from local Agricultural Academy. Academy kindly accepted our offer and 8 students arrived in the study area. The main task of the students was to interview pet owners and ask people if they were preapred to submit their animals for biological sampling (blood and nasal swabs).
To say the truth the students did their best and despite our apprehension that most of people would reject sampling of their pet, most part of owners accepted it and we collected very good number of samples. Much more than we ever collected before. To the end of this practice, some of students took blood for their own.
It was extremely funny and fruitful three weeks of our work. We’ve done our work with really good results, on another hand students spent interesting and knowledgeable time with us and obtained skills in sampling of animals.