Avian Influenza and the Role of Wild Birds in Central Asia (continued...)
Participants also had opportunity to actively participate in simulation exercises on HPAI outbreak investigation in which wildlife and animal health experts worked together to find most relevant and appropriate algorithm of actions in respond to proposed outbreak scenarios- some involving wildlife and others poultry. Working groups also identified national and regional priorities and needs for the follow-up activities from both national and regional perspectives.
During the field session of the course, participants were separated into two groups. One group was trained on the basics of bird identification in the field and principles of avian census and monitoring programs. Concurrently, the other group was trained on putting on/taking off PPE, practical sampling of wild birds, handling, labelling and storing collected samples in the field. Every participant had opportunity to practice each activity to ensure good quality field operations in the future
The event evaluation forms distributed among participants prior to issuing certificates of participation. In general, the workshop received excellent overall rating (4.76 out of 5.0). The keynote presenters from FAO have received higher overall rating (4.83-4.89, excellent) compared to the level of presentations by country delegations and local presenters. However, all of them still can be regarded as “excellent”. Rating of other questions from evaluation form also showed that workshop agenda has been highly relevant to the problems that countries are facing with regard to wildlife and Avian Influenza problematic and has fully covered the general topic. The administrative/logistical side of the event has bee also highly rated. However, apparently due to prevalence of veterinary specialists (29 vets : 10 wildlife experts) relevance of the workshop agenda to their jobs as well as level & relevance of field exercises have been rated slightly lower than the average. There also was an apparent deviation in rating of group work (simulation exercises and group discussions on the data sharing and identification of priorities). This is the only activity that has received overall rating which is closer to “good”, rather than “excellent”.
Participants were also asked to identify most important ideas/concepts/topics either presented or discussed during the workshop. The latter were ranked according to the frequency they had been mentioned in evaluation forms. Participants learned a lot from presentations on the role of wild birds (20.3 % of topics, concepts or ideas expressed), which is not surprising as the workshop had the major focus on it. Another major topic frequently regarded as the most important was wildlife surveillance (17.2 %). The theoretical part of training on wildlife surveillance has been regarded as being very useful nearly as frequently as its practical (field) part. Many of participants pointed out at importance of data exchange and information sharing and need for cooperation between veterinarians and ornithologists (12.5 % each topic). Participant also showed high interest in ornithological research (9.4 %), specifically bird catching techniques and migration studies (telemetry) and to a lesser degree in census and monitoring methods. Interests were equally distributed among three other topics: understanding of spatio-temporal correlations between H5N1 outbreaks and environmental variables, international cooperation on the field of HPAI prevention and control and selection of national and regional priorities (4.7 % each). The least regarded topics were bird identification (3.1 %) and ideas on application of ornithology to AI research &, group discussions and understanding of the risks of HPAI being currently present in the CA region (1.7 % each).
This simple analysis showed that while most participants had good understanding of H5N1 epizootics risks and potential application of ornithology to AI research (low interest), they were apparently more interested in learning new information on wildlife aspects of the problem and ways to organise wildlife surveillance and research as well as establishing sound cooperation between veterinarians and ornithologists. It is also clear that participants were very interested in establishing regional data exchange and information sharing mechanisms, which is also evident from their suggestions, provided in the evaluations forms and analysed below.
More than half of the workshop suggestions focused on conducting more seminars or trainings (covering similar or other topics) both at regional and national level (51.9 %). Other suggestions frequently mentioned in the evaluation forms centered around establishing a mechanism for coordination of ornithological research (migration studies in particular) on the regional and, to a lesser degree, national levels (22.2 %). Nearly fifteen per cent of suggestions addressed data sharing and information exchange issues (14.8 %). Many participants admitted that information, which they received from country reports, was very useful and suggested to create a mechanism to share it on regular basis. Some of them also suggested conducting in future a regional training specifically dedicated to disease reporting and information exchange (database) issues. Other suggestions included requests for procurement of equipment (7.4 %), the issue which has been separately addressed during the group discussions on regional and national priorities and needs. There has also been a suggestion to develop a regional research program on wildlife diseases (and not just avian influenza) (3.7 %).
FAO would like to acknowledge Government of Kazakhstan for hosting the workshop in Almaty and excellent collaboration and active participation in this important regional event. Special thanks are addressed to the Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan (ACBK) especially to Vitaliy Gromov and Marina Koshkina for providing excellent administrative and logistic support both before and during the workshop.
Follow-up activities identified based on the workshop findings include: 1) Organizing national trainings on wild birds and their role in spreading Avian Influenza in all countries of the network (Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan). (2) Establishing a technical coordination unit for bird migration research and AI surveillance in the countries of CA region. (3) Establishing a regional data exchange and information sharing mechanism with focus on AI and other TAD (database, web-based information system) for the countries of the CA region. (4) Providing further technical support to the countries based on the information provided by workshop participants (equipment and necessary tools for catching, sampling and monitoring of wild birds (all by ECTAD Central Asia team).