Event Report

Webinar: Zoonoses and bushmeat in Africa – Pro Wildlife Germany 

On July 6 was ‘World Zoonoses Day’. On this occasion, our member organisation Pro Wildlife hosted a webinar on the topic of zoonoses and bushmeat in Africa. In four African countries (Nigeria, Cameroon, Zambia and Liberia), the animal and species conservation organisation is conducting educational work on the health risks of consuming “bushmeat” in an innovative educational project together with local wildlife sanctuaries. Project partners from each country talked about their work and contribution on how to protect wildlife and reduce the risk for zoonoses. The Alliance is funding Pro Wildlife in implementing the project ‘A Transnational African Zoonosis Education campaign: Raising awareness for wildlife trade-linked health risks’.  

“Our education project in Africa is an example of how we can have a positive impact on human and animal health through outreach and education.” Dr Sandra Altherr, Pro Wildlife. 

The event began with guest speaker Dr. Egbetade Adeniyi giving an update and introduction about zoonoses, its meaning and relevance regarding wildlife and bushmeat. He highlighted the fact that shared spaces also mean shared pathogens and therefore the protection of habitats is of utmost importance. 

Afterwards Isabel Michler from the Secretariat of the Alliance briefly presented the Alliance and its goals. Furthermore, emphasis was put on the important role of wildlife santuaries in pandemic prevention, which was one of the reasons the Pro Wildlife project was selected for funding. This webinar was a very good example for how the International Alliance connects its members to enable new collaborations and expand each member’s radius to foster an international network. 

Pro Wildlife’s co-founder, Dr. Sandra Altherr, explained the aims of the organisation’s project and the importance of it. When conducting awareness campaigns to reduce the demand for wildlife and bushmeat are implemented, the dangers of zoonotic diseases are often neglected. Pro Wildlife’s campaign, on the other hand, focuses on creating public awareness on the ground for the human health risks assosiated with wildlife trade, using the One Health approach. 

© Limbe Wildlife Center

Dauda Onawola, manager of the Zoonoses Education Campaign of Pandrillus Nigeria, was the first one to present his organisation within this broad-based project. The biggest challenge for them is the number of different languages and dialects spoken in the country. By using the local English accent at a radio broad cast und also a newly started Spotify channel, they aim to reach as many people as possible and inform about bushmeat. They also distribute materials like calendars to not only reach single people, but whole households. Spreading the organisation’s message into communities is being done by teaching people to become ambassadors. Additionally, they use social media like Facebook, twitter and Instagram and post almost every week. The next steps are already being planned: the production of educational materials in the form of a tool kit.

The Limbe Wildlife Centre was presented by Wilson Ateh. They not only teach the public in their conservation education centre in Limbe, Cameroon, but also train their own staff.  For this purpose, the staff was divided into four different groups and each group presented their findings afterwards. Another way of creating more awareness they have been used is supporting the players of local football matches with t-shirts that have messages about zoonoses and wildlife trade on the back.  

Susan Wiper is the Director of Libassa Wildlife Sanctuary in Liberia, which started its work in 2017. So far, they have taken in about 700 animals and more than 350 of them have been released back into the wild. Bushmeat Consumption is part of Liberia’s culture, but due to the Ebola outbreak from 2014 to 2016, the government passed a new law in 2016 to curb the killing of wildlife and trade of wildmeat or bushmeat. The by authorities confiscated animals are brought to the sanctuary where they are be taken care of. To address people and raise awareness, they use scientific evidence, educate children at school, and encourage volunteer participation in nature work. To reach even more people they work together with other local NGOs and furthermore have a partnership with the Forestry Development Authority (FDA).

The Zambia Primate Project (GRI-ZPP) is a sanctuary especially for monkeys and baboons. They rescue, rehabilitate, and release them back to the wild, if possible. Besides that, the Project also organises community meetings with local authorities so that local chiefs or community leaders can positively influence their communities as role models or women from one of the many women groups have a better understanding of the health risks when using bushmeat in the kitchen. The GRI-ZPP runs several Conservation clubs in 60 schools on a weekly schedule. The participating children are from grade 5 and 6. These children are seen as the future generation, who can spread the message to other students, their peer groups and at home. Another way to raise awareness is a regularly 15min educational session over the community radio channel with a subsequent competition to keep the listeners motivated. Additionally, they educate visitors at their Wildlife Discovery Centre and use stickers and banners at soccer tournaments to create a better understanding of the urgency to protect wildlife among the population.

The following discussion was very lively, and the participants were eager to either learn from these four projects and get in contact with them or learn more about the Alliance and become a member. We are happy to see the progress and success of this by the Alliance funded project and are looking forward to welcome more members in our community.

The recording of the webinar can be found on Pro Wildlife’s YouTube Channel.