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News & features archive, 2009

Tracking disease movement through wild bird
surveillance and satellite telemetry

Bangor University/C. Bishop (Wales, UK)September 08, 2009 ľ As a follow up to previous activities on avian influenza surveillance conducted in the field in Mongolia in 2007 and 2008, FAO wildlife veterinarians returned to the country to work with an international team to conduct fieldwork on bar-headed geese at Terkhiin Tsagaan Lake, Arkhangai Aimag in Western Mongolia. Logistics and local coordination of the trip was organized by the Wildlife Science and Conservation Center, and the Mongolian Academy of Sciences in Mongolia. The United States Geological Survey organized the capture and satellite marking of the geese. Physiology studies were conducted cooperatively with the University of Wales in Bangor, UK, and the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.  FAO was responsible for collecting swabs and performing serology for avian influenza surveillance. H5N1 HPAI has reoccurred in this area. Our study site was 240 km West of an outbreak location that killed nine Whooper Swans at Ogii Lake in late May 2009, and 154 km South of Doroo Tsagaan Lake where 56 water birds died in late July 2009, including two geese marked at Terkhiin Tsagaan (one live and one dead) in 2008. This year, 215 adult bar-headed geese and 58 additional goslings were successfully captured in six separate molting drives

Altogether, 215 adults were banded, 156 marked with neck collars, 15 fitted with satellite transmitters, 23 fitted with backpack mounted GPS loggers and 38 geese received surgically implanted heart rate loggers. Cloacal and oral swab samples were collected from 229 individuals (196 adults, 33 goslings), 98 blood samples taken, and 135 feather samples were obtained for genetic and isotope analyses. Our team observed several geese marked in 2008 including one with a satellite transmitter. Also, we recaptured one goose from 2008 and recovered its track tag, thus demonstrating the feasibility of recapturing a marked goose.

FAO/T. McCracken Duplicate sets of cloacal and oral swabs were collected, with one set to be analyzed in the National Veterinary Laboratory in Mongolia, and the second set at the University of Hong Kong. Similarly, serology samples will be analyzed at the University of Hong Kong. Results are currently pending.

The geese with satellite transmitters can be tracked along their migratory route at the following website: