FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

FAO’s novel wild boar map could help manage African swine fever

Throughout Europe and Central Asia, wild boar raid crops and spread swine diseases, negatively affecting agriculture, conservation, road traffic and the health of livestock, wildlife and even humans. Due to their increasing densities and expanding ranges, economic losses are on the rise.

To better manage wild boar populations, officials have needed more accurate and detailed spatial information on species distribution and abundance. Wild boar data are commonly available at the level of sub-national units, such as provinces and districts, but little or no information is available about the distribution of the species within these units.

Now, FAO experts have developed a methodology that allows for the development of accurate and detailed maps on wild boar distribution and abundance, enabling front-line professionals to improve the management and control of wild boar populations and their diseases.

The work has been published in a peer-reviewed journal under the title “Wild boar mapping using population-density statistics: from polygons to high resolution raster maps.” The document provides accurate estimates of wild boar densities in Europe and parts of Asia at resolutions as fine as 5 km.

The novelty of the map lies in the underlying geostatistical approach, which integrates environmental variables and niche techniques for modelling and prediction to better estimate wild boar populations. The map’s estimates of wild boar densities have been shown to be highly accurate when validated by independent data.

This map will enable professionals to make better decisions while attempting to solve, or at least minimize, the negative effects of wild boar on agriculture, conservation and health. It comes at the right time, as it can be useful for preventing and controlling African swine fever, a deadly pig disease for which there is no vaccine. The disease, which often involves wild boar, is spreading throughout Europe and can now be found from the eastern parts of the Russian Federation west to the Czech Republic.

“If incorporated into risk analysis or disease risk modelling, the map can help to show the pathways and risks posed by wild boar in the spread and maintenance of animal diseases to livestock and vice versa,” said Daniel Beltran-Alcrudo, FAO animal health officer.

Beyond even the benefits for wild boar management, the methodology has proven to be robust and could easily be applied to mapping other wildlife populations of interest. It also can be adapted to different regions, said Claudia Pittiglio, a disease ecologist at FAO.

“The map could be easily updated as more recent or accurate wild boar population data become available, or expanded geographically to new areas,” she said.

The 28-page publication is freely available online in the English language from the PLOS ONE open-access journal.

28 May 2018, Budapest, Hungary