5 Years of VIEW in Nepal

VIEW maintains an unwavering commitment to the development of a robust and sustainable wildlife health program through training, infrastructure development, and support for research and knowledge acquisition. This commitment has been reflected in our Nepal Program through five years of focused education & training for wildlife professionals and students, assistance and continued support at NTNC for wildlife health infrastructure, research & disease surveillance and ongoing guidance and expert consultation to those committed to strengthening wildlife health in Nepal.  These achievements are detailed below.

Since 2012, VIEW has partnered with local veterinarians, technicians, students and organizations to provide the knowledge, skills and resources to Nepal’s wildlife professionals to best serve their important wildlife populations. However, it also is important to have proper tools and equipment so veterinarians can implement the education and training they receive. VIEW has been instrumental in the development of a diagnostic laboratory, medical equipment and supplies, the new wildlife health hospital and construction of special holding facilities. Wildlife Health protocols and policy recommendations have been adopted by the Nepalese government and national parks.

We look forward to working together to create a strong, sustainable National Wildlife Health program within the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation. We welcome closer engagement with the Department in meeting their needs and look forward to collaborating to achieve our common goals. Wildlife health is an essential part of any conservation strategy. In Nepal, it is now a national priority and will serve to ensure the future of Nepal’s precious heritage.

Education and Training in Nepal

Education and hands-on direct training are critical to empower local staff to better understand and respond to health risks facing endangered wildlife populations. VIEW, in collaboration with NTNC and DNPWC, has led six workshops and training sessions involving 200 wildlife professionals and students since 2012.

Capture and Immobilization Training: Tiger, rhino and other wildlife immobilizations present an invaluable opportunity to investigate disease. VIEW has focused on training veterinary staff to routinely conduct biological sample collection during any capture and immobilization procedure; we have presented information on immobilization drugs and how to manage animals under anesthesia; the importance of safety and emergency measures for people involved in these types of procedures; and, we have included sessions on immobilization drugs, handling dart equipment and supervised target practice.

2016 Training Workshop

Wildlife Health, Post Mortem Examination Training: All wildlife professionals can contribute to monitoring Nepal’s wildlife health. This can be done through direct observation of animals in the wild and through routine post-mortem examination of animals that have died. Post-mortem examination is one of the simplest and most fundamental ways to gather important wildlife disease information: we believe a complete postmortem examination should be performed on every endangered species found. VIEW has conducted workshops and individual sessions for wildlife professionals and veterinary students in post-mortem examination, biological sample collection, and ability to recognize signs of disease through field observation. We have also educated veterinary professionals on strategies for prevention and treatment of wildlife diseases.

Clinical Wildlife Medicine Training: Veterinarians and wildlife health technicians benefit from hands-on experience with domestic animals or wildlife to strengthen their skills in clinical and preventative medicine. VIEW has provided training for staff in rehabilitation and care of injured and/or ill animals on a case by case basis. Clinical assistance is also given directly when VIEW veterinarians are present and via remote consultation at any time in between. In some cases, VIEW personnel have made special trips to attend to specific high priority cases.  We have been working with the DNPWC director and other veterinary staff to develop standardized and reliable protocols for disease diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, and capture procedures.

Advanced Educational Opportunities: VIEW has supported many Nepalese students seeking further training through mentorship, letters of recommendation, and financial support. Five years ago, VIEW established a special scholarship at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies to enhance the skills of early-to-mid-career professionals who aspire to lead conservation management in Nepal and neighboring countries of Bhutan and Myanmar. These students, such as Timila Dhakhwa from Patan, Nepal, will be part of a new generation of leaders prepared to solve a range of resource management and development challenges.

Education and Training Stats

Impacting 200 wildlife professionals in Nepal on wildlife health and wildlife capture.

Workshops/Courses delivered

2013 – One five-day and one ten-day workshop; 55 participants.

2014 – Three one-day workshops; 95 participants.

2015 – One-day workshop; zoo staff.

2016 – One three-day workshop; 35 participants.

One-on-One Trainings delivered

2012 – Training sample collection for veterinary technician

2013 – Training laboratory protocols, necropsy techniques and sample collection for Arjun Pandit and Suraj Subedi.

2014 – Training necropsy techniques and medical care of tigers for technicians, visiting veterinarian, and Suraj Subedi.

2015 – Training biosafety and necropsy techniques for three veterinarians and one veterinary student; clinical training on wildlife cases for a veterinary student, wildlife technicians, and Amir Sadaula.

2016 – Training tiger and rhino necropsy for veterinary technicians and park rangers at Kasara.

Infrastructure Development for Wildlife Health

Wildlife Disease Laboratory: In partnership with NTNC and Elephant Care International (Dr. Susan Mikota), VIEW expanded the capabilities of the existing elephant TB program’s space at the BCC to function as a basic field wildlife disease investigation laboratory in Sauraha, Chitwan. This involved the purchase of diagnostic equipment and supplies, additional freezers, a large diesel generator, a backup battery system, and solar panels. We helped design and supported the construction of an animal necropsy area at the BCC, adjacent to the lab, to be used by Dr. Gairhe and other veterinary staff. This will significantly improve their ability to conduct more thorough examinations safely and will reduce disease transmission from wildlife (increased biosecurity).

BCC Wildlife Disease Investigation Lab

The field laboratory represents the only wildlife disease surveillance and diagnostic laboratory in Nepal. The work in the lab supports multiple research projects as well as routine data collection and sample storage and has served as a base for some important discoveries in the last 5 years. For example, VIEW-supported NTNC veterinarian, Amir Sadaula, helped discover the first case of tuberculosis in a wild greater one-horned rhino found dead in the Park.

Chitwan Wildlife Hospital: VIEW supports the development of a wildlife hospital in Chitwan. A modern clinical veterinary facility located in Sauraha will be an asset to not only perform life-saving medical and surgical procedures for Nepal’s wildlife but also will serve as an important training center in wildlife medicine for veterinarians and technicians. It will significantly enhance current wildlife disease surveillance and research programs. VIEW made an initial financial contribution and provided recommendations for the hospital design, necessary capital equipment and budget recommendations.

 

Infrastructure Stats

Creating facilities to support wildlife health.

Wildlife disease investigation lab

2012 – Began development of wildlife disease investigation laboratory (three rooms) at NTNC BCC.

2013-2017 – Continued laboratory development, financed generator and battery backup system, added new freezer and refrigerator for sample storage; developed protocols and policy recommendations; supplied post mortem field kits to park staff, darts for immobilization, reference books.

2016 – Construction of post mortem facility, installed solar panel power system, added additional batteries to laboratory.

Chitwan Hospital

2015 – Provided expert consultation and recommendations for wildlife hospital project in Sauraha.

Research and Disease Surveillance

Wildlife health has an important role to play in managing critical wildlife populations. In 2012 Nepal lacked the tools to understand this issue. However, VIEW has been building local capacity for:

  • Dedicated well-trained wildlife health professionals (managers, veterinarians, epidemiologists, research scientists dedicated to wildlife disease investigation)
  • Diagnostic capacity to generate accurate data
  • An appropriate database to store and analyze health information, and
  • Policies that support and encourage data collection and analysis.

Our focus is to collaboratively devise mechanisms to collect and analyze information – through routine activities or through targeted research. Management decisions and policy makers must be well informed to institute appropriate responses or prevention strategies that minimize the risks from disease.

Establishing Priorities: Priorities need to be established to maximize limited resources and generate the most valuable information, because it is impossible to monitor for every disease in every wild animal that exists in a given country. With Drs. Gairhe and Sadaula, VIEW developed a tool to prioritize the species and diseases of most importance in Nepal. Specifically, endangered and threatened animals, like tigers and rhinos, have been prioritized based on Nepal’s official species designation, CITES, and the IUCN Red List. Diseases were selected based on species level knowledge and known presence in livestock and/or wildlife in Nepal. This tool is available as an open google document and was presented by Dr. Kaufman at the International Wildlife Disease Association meeting in 2016.

Creating a Database: VIEW is helping Nepal invest in wildlife disease surveillance infrastructure to better understand and protect species that are important to the country. When wildlife health data is collected, it must be handled in the most efficient and responsible manner to lead to evidence-based research and policy development. VIEW has spearheaded the creation of a wildlife health database system with the Nepalese software company Nyatapol. The database is being beta tested and will be transfered to the DNPWC once all elements are proven to be working properly. All data is considered property of the Government of Nepal and access will be bound by strict confidentiality agreements determined by the DNPWC or Ministry.

Conducting and Supporting Research: VIEW’s research activities entail training and mentoring opportunities for our partners.  In Nepal, we have been focusing on and supporting research in the following:

  • Canine Distemper in dogs living in the Chitwan National Park bufferzone: Canine distemper has been identified in other regions (e.g. India, Siberia) as a threat for wild tiger populations. VIEW engaged Nepalese veterinary students and veterinarians to work in the buffer zone communities of Kolhuwa, Jagatpur, Sauraha/Bachhouli, and Madi to collect samples from domestic dogs; the teams also provided 500 rabies vaccinations for community dogs. The students benefited from gaining practical skills and confidence and our veterinary team (VIEW and NTNC) collected data efficiently with their help. The results from this pilot study found that 27% of dogs in the buffer-zone carry antibodies to canine distemper virus which may present a risk for wild carnivores, including tigers, in the park. This work was presented at the 2015 meeting of the Asian Society for Conservation Medicine in Myanmar.
  • Investigating health threats to endangered wild tigers: Blood samples were collected from 11 tigers between 2012-2016 under the supervision of Dr. Kamal Gairhe, Senior Veterinary Officer, DNPWC. In May 2016, under a CITES permit obtained by VIEW, serum samples were sent to Cornell University to test for antibodies to a range of diseases considered a possible health threat. Results are being assessed and will be submitted for publication soon. This work will help direct further investigations into tiger disease and help determine capacity needs in the Chitwan lab to continue this work. This project has been partially funded by an Experiment crowdfunding effort.
  • Threats to wildlife from tuberculosis: significant strides have been made through the Elephant TB Control and Management Action Plan by Drs. Gairhe, Kaufman and Mikota (Elephant Care International). The primary goal of that program is to minimize the risks of TB spreading from captive elephants to the wild. So far, no wild elephants have been identified with TB in Nepal, although this disease has been seen in wild elephants in India and other countries. In fact, a recent review of the program has found that no captive elephants have died from TB in Nepal in the last 4 years. This is real evidence that health management can work to protect both captive and wild populations from devastating disease. The focus on TB continues and in 2014, a new species of TB was found in a wild rhino in Chitwan. While this finding is alarming, we were pleased that our capacity building efforts resulted in this important discovery by a VIEW trained veterinarian (Dr. Sadaula), the first case ever found in Asia. Dr. Jeewan Thapa and Dr. Sarad Paudel, both former Elephant TB Project veterinarians, now PhD researchers in Japan, took the lead on publishing this work and are continuing to conduct research on this issue (Mycobacterium orygis–Associated Tuberculosis in Free-Ranging Rhinoceros, Nepal, 2015)

Research and Disease Surveillance Stats

Building systems and skills for creating new knowledge.

2013 – Initiated CITES permit process to allow diagnostic testing outside Nepal, approved 2016/2017.

2014 – Conducted canine distemper study in dogs in the CNP buffer zone.

2015 – Tuberculosis diagnosed in dead rhino in Chitwan National Park, first report ever in Asian One-horned rhino.

2015-2017 – Initiated development of wildlife health database for Nepal, currently in beta testing phase

2016 – Produced guidelines for disease surveillance priorities Species and Diseases of Concern for Nepal

2016 – Initiated serology study of tiger diseases. 11 samples analyzed at Cornell University, results under review.

Dr. McCauley and students investigate canine distemper in dogs living in the bufferzone.

Dr. Sadaula studies Elephant Endotheloptropic Herpes virus which threatens elephant calves in Chitwan