Ex situ conservation
The FAO Animal Health Service reports the following highlights...
The FAO Animal Genetic Resources Group has initiated a series of working groups aimed at establishing a comprehensive set of guidelines for countries to use when developing ex situ preservation strategies for domestic animal species.
The first working group met in December 1994 at FAO Headquarters, Rome, Italy, and addressed the range of problems concerning cryopreservation in so-called gene banks. In its recommendations, the working group strongly supported cryopreservation of semen and embryos of genetic resources at risk for all species where freezing is technically feasible, but preferably only as a complementary strategy to the conservation of live animals. This should also apply in situations where the maintenance of adequate numbers of live animals is not feasible. The guidelines will also include sampling procedures and numbers involved. Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) from all endangered breeds should be stored, but only for research purposes; the working group did not consider the recreation of a breed from DNA as feasible in the foreseeable future. Gene banks should be established at the national level to keep in line with the articles of the Convention on Biological Diversity, which clearly recognizes genetic resources as belonging to countries, taking into account health status and regulations. The working group recommended that a Global Repository of Last Resort be instituted by FAO for countries unable to establish and reliably maintain gene bank facilities, such as artificial insemination centres, embryo transfer teams and a long-term liquid nitrogen supply.
The second working group met in June 1995 at a livestock breed conservation centre in Italy. It addressed the problems of live-animal conservation, including all aspects of ex situ preservation (parks, zoos, research herds and flocks), as well as the maintenance and use of small populations at the farm level in their normal environment, either through technical and financial assistance to small farmers or in the framework of national parks.
The third working group, to meet in November 1995, will address the legal issues of ex situ conservation, including problems of ownership of and access to the resources.
All technical inputs of these three working groups, as well as their conclusions and recommendations, will be published in the FAO Animal Production and Health series.
· Implementation of a project has started on the eradication of ticks and tick-borne diseases in the Caribbean to prevent their spread to the North American continent.
· Under FAO coordination, major research institutes worldwide have agreed to collaborate, in a renewed global effort, to combat tsetse and trypanosomiasis in Africa.
· A foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in Greece has been brought under control, thus averting the threat to the European livestock industry.
· Guidelines have been finalized, jointly with the International Office of Epizootics (OIE) and the World Health Organization (WHO), for a regional brucellosis control programme in the Near East that, when implemented, will have considerable impact on both human and animal health.
· As part of an effort to modernize the FAO/OIE/WHO Animal health yearbook, and respective guidelines in English, French and Spanish, an electronic questionnaire was developed and is now being used to acquire input data from member countries for this important publication.
· Two designated FAO collaborating centres in veterinary epidemiology and informatics (Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, United States, and Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale, Teramo, Italy) have contributed to the elaboration of a regional animal-disease surveillance and control network for North Africa and the Near East.
· FAO's Animal Health Service is assisting in the rebuilding of veterinary services in war-torn Afghanistan. Community-based veterinary services are being delivered by basic veterinary workers on a full cost recovery and privatized basis. These services will be available in approximately 240 districts by the end of 1996.
Contagious diseases are receiving increased attention as illustrated by the launching of the FAO Director-General's new priority programme EMPRES (Emergency Prevention System for Transboundary Plant Pests and Animal Diseases). The livestock diseases component was mandated by the FAO Council to strengthen FAO's role with respect to livestock disease emergencies and is being implemented by the Animal Health Service's Infectious Diseases Group. The major initial thrust is being directed at the Global Rinderpest Eradication Programme (GREP) in Africa, the Near East and South Asia. In support of this, the Pirbright Laboratory of the United Kingdom Institute for Animal Health has been designated as the FAO World Reference Laboratory for Rinderpest (WRL-RP) where rinderpest virus strains will be analysed using modern molecular techniques, complementing field epidemiological/surveillance activities. The Council underscored the need to address other important epidemic diseases. Therefore, in addition to rinderpest, five other priority diseases are receiving special attention (peste des petite ruminants, foot-and-mouth disease, contagious bovine pleuropneumonia, Rift Valley fever and lumpy skin disease). Jointly with OIE, FAO is examining prospects for the eradication of foot-and-mouth disease with particular emphasis on Latin America and Southeast Asia.
Rinderpest. As a result of national and international control efforts, rinderpest is now restricted to three main regions of the world: Africa, the Near East and Asia. In Africa, consistent action through the Pan-African Rinderpest Campaign (PARC) has reduced the extent of rinderpest disease and it is now recognized only in eastern Africa where it persists in discrete endemic foci in southern Sudan, northern Uganda, northwestern Kenya and parts of Ethiopia and Eritrea, with some doubt about its status in southern Somalia. There is active rinderpest in the Near East, primarily in contiguous areas of Turkey, Iraq and Iran, as well as in Yemen, and in the Gulf Cooperative Countries (GCC) sporadic outbreaks occur as a result of introduction through livestock trade primarily from South Asia. Once widespread in southern Asia, rinderpest is now restricted to the four southern states of India, the northeast of Sri Lanka and Pakistan. A single outbreak was documented in the Tuva Republic and Mongolia in central Asia in 1991/92. The current status of rinderpest in Asian republics of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is uncertain.
The endemic foci in East Africa become obvious when rinderpest extends into adjacent susceptible cattle and wildlife populations. The most dramatic recent development was an outbreak of rinderpest in Kenya's Tsavo National Park. This has caused alarm because it occurred in a country ostensibly cleared of rinderpest and in an area that has been free from the disease for more than 20 years and from which there is a serious risk of transboundary spread to neighbouring countries that are also supposedly rinderpest-free. An EMPRES assessment mission was fielded to Kenya and the United Republic of Tanzania to assist national authorities and the Organization of African Unity/Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources (OAU/IBAR). Investigations have now indicated that the rinderpest in buffaloes was preceded by disease in antelopes, and investigations are continuing to define the source. As far as is known, the disease is restricted to wildlife. Definitive diagnosis of the buffalo disease as rinderpest was established through material submitted to the FAO World Reference Laboratory for Rinderpest, as was the case with outbreaks of rinderpest in Pakistan.
Contagious bovine pleuropneumonia. CBPP is widespread in the extensively managed cattle herds of sub-Saharan Africa, where it is rated second in importance only to rinderpest. In recent years, the movement of cattle, sometimes as a result of civil disturbance, southward and westward from the endemically infected areas of Uganda and Kenya, and with them CBPP, has resulted in major outbreaks of the disease and in the establishment of new endemic foci in Uganda, Zaire, the United Republic of Tanzania and Rwanda. EMPRES carried out emergency assessment and assistance missions to Rwanda and Tanzania and undertook an epidemiological assessment of CBPP in the subregion, recommending the development of a regionally coordinated effort. This need has been further highlighted by the sudden, dramatic extension of CBPP into southern Tanzania, causing heavy cattle mortality in an area previously free of the disease for more than 30 years.
Foot-and-mouth disease. A severe and widespread outbreak of FMD in Greece was only detected some time after it had gained a firm hold. After further spread of the disease, eventual control was achieved through a concerted European action spearheaded by the FMD secretariat based in the FAO Animal Health Service.
Trypanosomiasis and tsetse programme. The trypanosomiasis/tsetse programme has made notable progress in the development of geographic information systems for the analysis of the disease's impact on agriculture and farming systems in various ecological zones. The results obtained confirm the major inhibiting influence of the disease directly on livestock numbers and distribution and indirectly on cultivation, crop production and, therefore, food security across large areas of the subhumid zone in West Africa. Focus will now turn to the East African situation, where the impact is expected to be similar if not more severe.