Multi-Institutional Collaboration in Veterinary-Based Research in Kruger National Park: A Model for Effective Conservation Partnerships
The routine capture of various animals each year for management purposes in the Kruger National Park (KNP), South Africa, provides a remarkable opportunity for conducting ongoing research projects that will be of benefit to the management and conservation of wildlife species both in situ and those held in captive facilities including zoos. However, a limiting factor to this has been human capacity to facilitate the implementation of such projects.
In 2004, the Africa Research Consortium (ARC), a partnership of zoos within the USA, was created with the purpose of raising funds to establish a veterinary research technologist position based within KNP. This position has since been successfully realized. Accommodation for both the technologist and visiting researchers has also been built. The responsibilities of the incumbent includes the collection of biological samples during routine animal captures, and the processing, storage and distribution of these samples as required by registered research projects.
To date, this collaborative effort between ARC and KNP has resulted in the successful completion of a number of projects. These include developing a novel combination of immobilizing drugs for the capture of hyaena, testing recently developed diagnostic tests for the detection of bovine tuberculosis (Mycobacterium bovis) infections in white rhino, developing genetic based techniques for differentiating between black and blue wildebeest, determining the genetic variation within the KNP wild dog population, and conducting prevalence surveys for bovine tuberculosis in the KNP buffalo population. Importantly, the technologist routinely facilitates the collection of biological samples from all animal species captured, amounting to approximately 700 animals annually. These samples are put into long-term storage from where they are made available to researchers as required.
Due to the initial success of this multi-institutional collaboration, an increase is anticipated in the number of participants in ARC as well as the quantity and scope of research projects conducted each year.
The authors thank the International Wildlife Health Institute, especially Mike Branham, for their support in managing the funds associated with the veterinary research technologist position. They thank all members of Veterinary Wildlife Services, KNP, for their support in conducting research projects and numerous animal captures each year. Henry Doorly Zoo, Disney’s Animal Programs and Wildlife Pharmaceuticals are thanked for their generous financial support of this collaborative effort. A special thanks is extended to Naida Loskutoff for her unfailing support.