Disease detectives track buffalo in Ruaha National Park

We received a great update from HALI's own Dr. Annette Roug last week, who has been in Tanzania with our team and the Tanzania National Park vets continuing their ongoing study of park buffalo populations....

- Annette Roug

During the last few weeks, HALI team members were back in Ruaha National Park for buffalo work. The GPS collars that we placed in 2014 have now run out of battery.  We attempted to find buffaloes with collars in order to remove the collars. In addition, we sampled another five animals for disease testing and conducted demographic surveys. 

The capture and sampling of the five additional animals were successful. We sampled four bulls and one cow from three different herds. We succeeded in removing one collar. The cow had a little calf and both looked very healthy. 

The pictures show the sampling of buffalo bulls near Jongomero, and one shows HALI's Erasto Katowo and myself removing the collar from the cow with the ID SAT1497. The remaining are photos of buffalo and the blood tubes that we collect.

Bat Diaries: Locations

After a not so brief hiatus, I resume my posts with renewed determination. As much as I enjoy the other parts of my PhD research (which, at the moment, consists of writing up my first chapter after much coding and analysis *yay*), I started getting lost among the timelines and deadlines and the sometimes unrealistic goals I set for myself. It's time to reclaim the absolute joy I got from working with the HALI team, and share some of it with you.

Back in my first post, I mentioned the three places we visited for tagging and sampling the bats. You can find these locations (Morogoro, Udekwa, and Illovo) in the map below. Clicking on the circles will bring up their names.

We (Dr. Brian Bird aka Dr. Ndege, and I) flew to Dar, whereupon we were collected by Dr. Chris Kilonzo and Amani, and comfortably ensconced for the night. The next day we'd collect supplies and head to our first destination: Morogoro. I saw my first baobab tree on the way there! Saving you from a fuzzy picture shot from a car by posting this other one below. It even shows evidence of past elephant visits :)

Photo by nistara randhawa

Photo by nistara randhawa


Note: The map above was made with Leaflet. Turns out it is possible to embed a leaflet map in squarespace!

Why are buffalo populations declining in Tanzania's Ruaha National Park?

In 2014, HALI partnered with the Safari Club International Foundation (SCI) and teamed up with Tanzania National Park staff to investigate reports of buffalo population declines in Ruaha National Park.  SCI just released a story about our work on their blog First For Wildlife, and we are excited to highlight an excerpt below, along with video captured by our team and Dr. Annette Roug.

African buffalo, also known as Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer), are an extremely valuable species to hunters as one of Africa’s traditional “Big Five” game species. So when reports started coming in of buffalo declines occurring in Tanzania’s Ruaha National Park, everyone became concerned. In 2014, SCI Foundation partnered with the Health for Animals and Livelihood Improvement (HALI) project, a joint effort of University of California Davis researchers and the Tanzanian government; to better understand the ecology of buffalo in Ruaha and the disease issues that may be affecting the population.

 

Check out the full story Drying Ruaha River Possibly Contributes to Buffalo Decline at First For Wildlife

Meet Ian Trupin, HALI's Research Innovation Fellow for Agriculture

HALI is proud to be hosting Ian Trupin, a Research Innovation Fellow for Agriculture (RIFA), this summer in collaboration with the UC Davis College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences International Programs Office. Ian joined our team in May 2017 and since arriving in Tanzania has been a tremendous asset and team member. We previously featured Ian's contributions (thanks to Twitter) during the Rx One Health Course, and since that time he has been helping our PREDICT behavioral science team with field work in the Kigoma District and launch new research into risks for viral spillover from bats to local communities in the Morogoro region.  

Ian (2nd from right) hunting down a fruit bat roosting site in Morogoro with our HALI wildlife team (Photo: Alphonce Msigwa)

Ian (2nd from right) hunting down a fruit bat roosting site in Morogoro with our HALI wildlife team (Photo: Alphonce Msigwa)

 

Ian's RIFA profile was posted by the UC Davis International Program's Office recently and we wanted to share it here as well to highlight RIFA's connection with our project and team.

Ian Trupin

A RIFA fellow's experience with "One Health" problem solving in Tanzania and Rwanda

Reposted from http://ip.ucdavis.edu/profiles/RIFA/ian

After over one month in Tanzania as a RIFA fellow with the Health for Animals and Livelihood Improvement (HALI) Project, I have found myself going in unexpected, though very interesting, directions. My original plan was to interview pastoralists, livestock officers, and university researchers about disease risk factors in the Greater Ruaha Landscape of southern Tanzania, and to map local perceptions of land use change and livestock disease risk with farmer and pastoralist focus groups. Instead, I am in the historic coastal town of Bagamoyo, taking part in a 4-week applied course on “One Health” approaches to zoonotic disease, and preparing to join HALI’s field team on a study tour in northwestern Tanzania when I return. 

Shortly after I arrived in country, I found out that my initial research plan would be impossible, as my research permit application, which I had intended to include on a larger research permit renewal, would not return in time for me to use it. Instead, I decided to join on to one of the HALI Project’s several ongoing projects. After consulting with the field team and the head office in Davis, I decided to join the PREDICT 2 Human Behavioral Risk Surveillance team in Tanzania, which is collecting a variety of qualitative data on human practices and perceptions related to human-animal interfaces in northwestern Tanzania. PREDICT 2 aims to establish and improve systems for early detection and response to emerging infectious disease outbreaks in high risk regions of the world, like East Africa’s lake zone. My main role will be to add capacity on qualitative data analysis and help train the in-country field staff in using data management software, while also learning field methods from the field staff. In addition, I hope to retain an element of spatial research from my original plan, by possibly creating local maps to target further surveillance activities in Murongo area of Kagera. 

This is where the Rx One Health course comes in. “One Health” is an approach based on addressing human, animal, and environmental health as interlocking elements of a broader picture, such that improving outcomes for one element must take into account its relationship with the other two. Because the next PREDICT site visit isn’t until July, I decided to take advantage of an opening in the course to learn about the One Health approach while also getting the specific training I will need to work with PREDICT. 

I am now a week and a half into the course, which is taking place at several locations in Tanzania and Rwanda. The course brings together twenty two students and professionals in fields ranging from veterinary medicine to disease ecology, as well as myself, in International Agricultural Development. We hail mostly from the US, Tanzania, and Rwanda, though there are also participants from Nepal and Denmark. Rx One Health has been both fun and fascinating. Although my work with the HALI Project up to this point has taught me some basic vocabulary and concepts related to emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) and zoonosis (the exchange of pathogens between humans and other species), I have found myself learning how to catch bats in mist nets, take cheek swabs from vervet monkeys, vaccinate chickens, and take blood samples from cattle. Between lessons on field methods, we’ve also been able to visit and interview people at typical interfaces for zoonotic disease infection, such as fishermen and Maasai pastoralists, tour a rural health facility, and observe laboratory spaces. Additionally, we’ve had numerous lectures from HALI staff and partners. These ranged from non-profits like Wildlife Connection, which works to reduce wildlife-farmer conflict around the Greater Ruaha Ecosystem, to the Apopo Project at Sokoine University of Agriculture, which trains African pouched rats to detect TB in human sputum samples. We have learned about the politics of village-led Wildlife Management Areas and about case studies of epidemic disease outbreaks, as well as the early warning systems that HALI is helping to pioneer through USAID PREDICT. 

Being introduced to so many unfamiliar skill sets and areas of knowledge in such a short period of time has had its challenges. One the one hand, I’m finding it easier to talk to other participants about their work and past experiences, and getting a better idea of how people in these fields ask and answer questions. On the other hand, it has been a challenge to sift through the information and determine what is most relevant to my own project. 

For the remaining two weeks of the course, we’ll be moving on to Rwanda, where we will be learning from One Health professionals at the University of Rwanda in Kigali, and Gorilla Doctors in Kinigi. I will be doing my best to continue absorbing as much knowledge as possible, while also using what I’m learning to reshape my approach to the rest of my RIFA experience. 

For more about the Research Innovation Fellowships for Agriculture program, please visit: http://ip.ucdavis.edu/scholars-and-students/RIFA/

Happy Nane Nane (Farmer's Day)!

HALI Principal Investigator Prof. Kazwala speaks to the Minister and the SUA leaders about our One Health surveillance and viral detection work and how HALI is contributing to improvements in health and livelihoods for Tanzania's rural communities.

HALI Principal Investigator Prof. Kazwala speaks to the Minister and the SUA leaders about our One Health surveillance and viral detection work and how HALI is contributing to improvements in health and livelihoods for Tanzania's rural communities.

HALI team members presented on project successes and achievements during the Nane Nane exhibition 1st-8th August 2017 in Morogoro. Nane Nane is a a national event celebrated each year in Tanzania to recognize farmers' contribution to the economy. On the opening day of the exhibition.HALI's Principal Investigator Prof. R. Kazwala spoke with government officials including the Principal of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences Prof. Kipanyula, the Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism Prof. Jumanne Maghembe who was the guest of honour at the event, the Vice Chancellor Sokoine University of Agriculture Prof. R. Tihelwa Chibunda and the Morogoro region commissioner Dr. Steven Kebwe.

Prof. Kazwala (at right) and Prof. Kipanyula (1st from left), the Minister of Natural resources and Tourism Prof. Jumanne Maghembe (2nd from left), SUA Vice Chancellor Prof. R. Tihelwa Chibunda (3rd from left) and the Morogoro region commissioner Dr. Steven Kebwe (4th from left).

Prof. Kazwala (at right) and Prof. Kipanyula (1st from left), the Minister of Natural resources and Tourism Prof. Jumanne Maghembe (2nd from left), SUA Vice Chancellor Prof. R. Tihelwa Chibunda (3rd from left) and the Morogoro region commissioner Dr. Steven Kebwe (4th from left).

HALI team takes to the waves in the Lake Zone...

I never imagined our field team would be gearing up in lifesaving orange and hitting the waves en route to a wildlife sampling site but alas. Up in the Lake Zone that's how we roll. Today Alphonce shared a batch of pics via WhatsApp of the team gearing up for a beach landing before arriving in Gombe Stream Park where we will be collecting samples (noninvasively) from chimps and other non-human primates.  

Stay tuned for for more here or see our @PredictProject or @haliucdavis twitter feeds for live updates... 

 

IMG_2340.JPG

Rx One Health has landed

The Rx One Health course, designed to be a "prescription” or Rx for early career health professionals to prepare them for immediate engagement in global health careers that will demand effective problem solving skills, cross-disciplinary engagements, and solid foundations in field and laboratory activities, has officially landed in Tanzania!  

The HALI team is hosting the first few weeks of Rx One Health and team members are instrumental for coordination and instruction and a few team members are even participating as "students".  We'll bring you more news on Rx One Health over the next few weeks but for real-time updates please check out the stream on Twitter #rxonehealth

 

Mwokozi, one of HALI's participants in Rx One Health documents the official landing and launch of the course in Iringa, Tanzania.

Mwokozi, one of HALI's participants in Rx One Health documents the official landing and launch of the course in Iringa, Tanzania.

One Health Field Diaries: Team Mbu gets technical

In case you missed our last post, HALI is working with a few friends from Colorado State University, vector-borne disease experts, to build skills for mosquito sampling, identification, and molecular analysis in HALI's partner lab at the Ifakara Health Institute.  The second part of training kicked off yesterday, with Dr. Kading leading a really great workshop on mosquito identification, and lab techniques like blood meal analysis.  

One Health Field Diaries: Team Mbu buzzing around...

Last week, HALI welcomed a few renowned mbu (mosquito) experts to Tanzania. Dr. Rebekah Kading from Colorado State University (CSU), a vector-borne disease specialist with extensive experience in southern Africa and her team from CSU joined HALI and their old friend Dr. Ngege (Brian Bird) for a week-long workshop on mosquito trapping and sampling, species identification, and laboratory techniques (blood meal analysis, etc.).  

The team started out in Dar, then headed through Morogoro on the way to Kilombero where our Rift Valley Fever and Brucella (R&B) project field sites are located and where Robert Sumaye has based field vector sites for better understanding the role of mbu in Rift Valley Fever epidemiology.  

The workshops are helping 11 HALI team members from Sokoine University of Agriculture and the Ifakara Health Institute refine field and lab skills in the vector-borne disease realm, which will really help move R&B's work forward as we ramp up mbu collection and analytics through the rest of the wet season and into the dry summer months.

One Health field diaries: When it rains...

The roads turn to clay and vehicles stop in their tracks. Sometimes you just need a little help from friends, in this case some of our pastoralist community members, always willing to lend a hand to a HiLux in need of some shovel work. We are getting some great updates via WhatsApp lately, this time from Goodluck and the livestock sampling team, so stay tuned for more One Health in action!

One Health field diaries: Team popo is at it again

Once again, Team Popo (the bat team) led by Dr. Popo himself is in the field capturing and sampling bats of all kinds and sizes. They are still testing out some new telescopic poles for mist netting (check out our previous post), this time on smaller insectivorous bats that typically roost in and around people's homes.

We are in Mangula now starting small insectivorous sampling, our poles continue to be useful and made a new method for trapping bats. - Dr. Popo

 

This is part of our One Health field diaries series, a collection of content the HALI team shares on WhatsApp and provides a glimpse of all the amazing work this team does from the field to lab and beyond. Keep coming back for more One Health in action soon...

 

One Health field diaries: Patient enrollment and sampling at the health clinics

Clinic staff have received supplies to continue collecting samples from patients at our clinics. These supplies include Liquid nitrogen, an essential item for keeping samples cold in storage and so we can test the samples for known and potnetially new viruses.

HALI sets up a dewar freshly charged with liquid nitrogen at one of our clinics in Tanzania.

HALI sets up a dewar freshly charged with liquid nitrogen at one of our clinics in Tanzania.

One Health field diaries: The big unveil - new bat "fishing" poles

To catch a bat sometimes you need a net and sometimes you need a net connected to really, really big poles. Dr. Ndege (Brian Bird) came up with this great idea to get some telescopic poles for our mist nets, since Zika (Dr. Popo - the bat doctor)  and the team typically cut their own poles from the bush. It's possible we earn more carbon credits with these new poles, doing our part to keep HALI on the sustainability pathway, but we definitely save a ton of time in set up for capture work. Zika and Chris Kilonzo WhatsApped a few photos to us of their first day in the field together. We think it's love at first sight, but let's wait to see our capture rates.

IMG_0209.JPG
IMG_0211.JPG
IMG_0215.JPG

Bat Diaries: Prologue

Slowly but surely, bit by bit, I'm going to invite you to make your your way through my field experience in Tanzania, wherein I teamed up with an amazing bunch of individuals to find out where the bats fly to.

Every evening come dusk (or a little before, truth be told), Eidolon helvum, also know as the straw-colored fruit bats, start swarming above their tree roosts like bees, imagine if you will, but bigger and spread higher and wider across the sky. They circle above you for what seems like an eternity, and then just as you start questioning the wisdom of standing under hundreds of flying bats (and their droppings, but that's when PPE comes into play right?), they spread out and make their way towards lands unknown for yet another night of foraging. No one knows where they are going, just that they go somewhere. No one who sees bats flying around knows where they are coming from, just that they come from somewhere. That's where we stepped in, and decided to unearth us some bat traveling secrets.

And so, the Bat Diaries will chronicle my journey to Morogoro, Udekwa, and Illovo, three vastly different places in Tanzania united by the warmth of the local people, beautiful landscapes, and delicious ugali. Three places where the VISHA team braves the elements of the capricous seasons, to sample bats so we know more about what viruses they're shedding, and when they're more likely to shed them. Except this time, I was lucky enough to tag along with the team, and get to do some bat tracking!

Photo by Nistara Randhawa

Photo by Nistara Randhawa

Did I mention only straw-colored fruit bats above? Well, we also sampled the Egyptian fruit bat (Rousettus aegyptiacus), like the adorable mom bat pictured here.

HALI TEAM AT SOKOINE MEMORIAL WEEK

Sokoine Memorial week is exibited on 12th April every year by Sokoine University of Agriculture to commemorate the death of Hon. Edward Moringe Sokoine, the former Prime Minister of the United Republic of Tanzania. On 10th-13th April 2017, HALI team represented the College of Veterinary and Medical Sciences of Sokoine University of Agriculture at Solomon Mahlangu Campus (SUA) Morogoro. The team demonstrated PREDICT Project activities including, technologies, ideas, discoveries and solutions that will improve food and health sectors in Tanzania using One Health Approach.

ISMERALDA FRANCIS (PREDICT Volunteer) demonstrating the project activitie in the field and in lab.

ISMERALDA FRANCIS (PREDICT Volunteer) demonstrating the project activitie in the field and in lab.

WALTER SIMON (LAB TECH) informing on ideas, objectives and importance of PREDICT Project in Tanzania.

WALTER SIMON (LAB TECH) informing on ideas, objectives and importance of PREDICT Project in Tanzania.

Prof. Kazwala on the lefT, Vice chancellor of Sokoine University of Agriculture on the right and Walter Simon in tyvek suit.

Prof. Kazwala on the lefT, Vice chancellor of Sokoine University of Agriculture on the right and Walter Simon in tyvek suit.

Prof. Kazwala on the right, after responding to a question from the Minister for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries (Dr. Charles Tizeba) third from left. Second from left is the Vice chancellor of Sokoine University of Agriculture.

Prof. Kazwala on the right, after responding to a question from the Minister for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries (Dr. Charles Tizeba) third from left. Second from left is the Vice chancellor of Sokoine University of Agriculture.

New publication: Poultry Skills for Improving Rural Livelihoods

Our colleagues at the UC Davis One Health Institute just released an amazing resource for improving health and rural livelihoods all over the world and for budding backyard chicken enthusiasts. The book: Poultry Skills for Improving Rural Livelihoods was developed as a manual for teaching primary and secondary school students how to care for and grow flocks for improved nutrition and other benefits. The book is a really cool collaborative between UC Davis, partners at Heifer International in Nepal, and Tanzania collaborators from Sokoine University of Agriculture.

We piloted the poultry skills school program in Tanzania and Nepal. This Teacher’s Manual is a product of that pilot project. This manual provides all of the technical background and lesson plans for primary school administrators and teachers to implement a program to teach poultry skills to children. The lessons cover both classroom and school yard activities. We wish you the best in your efforts to improve the production of chickens and eggs — a very important source of family nutrition and income throughout the world.

Sustainable cold chain for HALI research activities in Tanzania

-Zikankuba Sijali, Sokoine University of Agriculture

The HALI Project is ensuring regular maintenance of the liquid  nitrogen (LN) plant for sustainable liquid nitrogen production. Liquid nitrogen is an essential and a best cold chain supply in our environment when planning for sample collection for viral detection. Despite being used frequently through intensifying surveillance activities, the LN plant is still stable and operating in a good condition since 2012 when it was installed.

Erasto Katowo HALI project LN plant operator working with an engineer from CRYOTECH COMPANY DavId Githinji during maintenance of the plant on April 4, 2017  (PHOTO BY Sijali Zikankuba)

Erasto Katowo HALI project LN plant operator working with an engineer from CRYOTECH COMPANY DavId Githinji during maintenance of the plant on April 4, 2017  (PHOTO BY Sijali Zikankuba)

Field notes: Batting it out in Morogoro

HALI is working with a star PhD student from UC Davis, Nistara Randhawa, on a project using sensors and satellite collars to track fruit bat movement and migration patterns in areas where our field teams are sampling bats for potentially zoonotic viruses. She shared a great update from the field of her work capturing and collaring fruit bats...

Here are some pictures from yesterday's session. We've got some local people helping hold long bamboo poles so we can catch the bats (else they were flying too high - although more often then not, they just fly over and below the net now). The collaring went smooth (and we used adhesives for one).... The colorful net thing is kind of like a beach house for the bats, where we put them till they get sedated or recovered. Today we sampled 22 bats... tomorrow we sample some more, and then head towards Iringa/Udekwa.