FAO and Max Planck Institute take on species-swapping diseases

Published by Max Planck Institute on Mon, 01/23/2012 - 09:41
Wild birds in Thailand await inspection by animal health authorities.

Focus on interactions between wild animals, livestock,and human populations to reduce risks, strengthen responses 

30 May 2011, Rome - FAO and the German Max Planck Institute are joining forces to study species-swapping diseasesthat move back and forth between wild animals and domestic livestock and, in somecases, jump to human victims.

In today's interconnected world, population growth, modern transportation and increased global trade in animals and animal products have vastly accelerated the spread of zoonoses - species jumping diseases - capable of wreaking major impacts on farmers'livelihoods and human health alike. A/H1N1 swine flu and the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza are but two recent examples.

A memorandum of understanding signed today by FAO and the Max-Planck-Institute for Ornithology, based in Radolfzell, Germany, establishes a strategic partnership aimed at combining the organizations'expertise and resources to tackle this problem.

A key goal of the partnership will be to determine which agroecological landscapes represent the greatest risk for disease transmission among human, livestock, and wild animal populations.
Among other things, the agreement also commits FAO and the Institute to helping countries strengthen their national capacity to balance preservation of natural resources and biodiversity with and expansion and intensification of agricultural production to ensure food security.

Strategic partnership, holistic vision

"Combining the Institute's extensive trove of data on wildlife movements with FAO data on livestock production and landscape changes due to agriculture, forestry and urbanisation, will permit a new level of insight into animal-human interactions, conservation priorities, and more effective management of and response to health risks," said Martin Wikelski, director of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology.

FAO Deputy Director-General for Knowledge Ann Tutwiler added: "Disease dynamics can no longer be considered in isolation within the livestock sector but must be placed into a broader context of sustainable agriculture, socio-economic development, environment protection and sustainability."

"This is why FAO is moving forward with the ‘One Health' approach that emphasizes a multidisciplinary collaboration in solving challenging health issues arising from the livestock-wildlife-human-ecosystem interfaces -- working closely with partners like the Max Planck Institute," Tutwiler said.

About FAO and the Institute

The Department of Migration and Immuno-ecology of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology has far-reaching expertise in investigating animal movements on a global scale,including the creation of its online, open-access database on world animal movements, MoveBank.

FAO has long worked to safeguard animal and veterinary public health, maintain animal genetic diversity, and minimize the environmental impact of livestock production. The UN agency has played a leading role in helping countries cope with outbreaks of zoonotic and non-zoonotic animal diseases, including understanding and addressing the factors leading to their emergence. This includes work on avian influenza, A/H1N1 influenza, rift valley fever, and African sleeping sickness as well as the international effort to eradicate rinderpest.

Researching together in the Himalayas

Published by Max Planck Institute on Sun, 01/22/2012 - 00:00

Researching together in the Himalayas – the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology agrees on a cooperation project with the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment in Bhutan The Max Planck Society agrees on a scientific cooperation with Bhutan on July 29 th. The Department of Migration and Immuno-Ecology, headed by Prof. Martin Wikelski at the Department in Radolfzell is intensifying the exchange between the scientists in joint research projects, in order to gain new insights into the high-altitude migration of various species in the Himalayas.

Bhutan, the small Buddhist country with an enormously abundant flora and fauna, is a transit area and hibernation site for a large number or rare species. Its climate ranges from subtropic regions via a moderate climate to alpine regions. Three quarters of the country is forested, half of which is a protected nature conservation area, i.e. a national park or completely protected nature reserves.

The special relationship that the Bhutanese have with nature, and for whom its protection and their own personal existence go hand in hand, lies in the fact that the Himalayan forest and countryside form the "source" of their lives - "the source of life blood“, as Nawang Norbu, Directorofthe Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment explains. Nawang Norbu is a doctoral student at the International Max Planck Research School for Organismal Biology at the University of Constance and the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology.

The Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment, founded in 2004 and named after the first Bhutanese king, strives as a centre of excellence in south-east Asia to promote the research and scientific insight into the areas of ecology in support of the environment and its conservation. Field research courses in the country, scientific exchange and international cooperation are to help solve the urgent problemsof global, climatic change, which also have consequences for the fantastic biodiversity in Bhutan.

The Max Planck Institute for Ornithology will beworking together with the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment initially for three years in scientific exchange and in joint projects.
The scientists of the Department for Migration and Immuno-Ecology atthe Department in Radolfzell are investigating global animal migration.

Why animals undertake this often dangerous migration and how they manage to get from one place to the other and survive this, and how one can preserve the global phenomenon of animal migration, are the central questions. The researchers find answers to these questions by fitting single individuals with biologgers and GPS transmitters that send movement patterns via satellite. The data thus obtained is collected and analysed in the "Movebank" an international database. In joint projects, the scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology and their Bhutanese colleagues would now like to find out in fieldwork, what the main environmental influence is that the high-altitude migration of some of the species is subject to - these species often covering a difference in altitude of several thousand metres and even living quite often at a height of 5,000 m above sea-level. Here, the researchers are also confronted with the challenge of developing new radio-telemetry techniques which fulfil the specific conditions of a very mountainous region. By taking particularly rare animals as an example, such as the endangered black-necked crane that overwinters inBhutan, the scientists want to take more exact measures for protecting certain migration corridors, by analysing ecological data and movement patterns and subsequently helping to preserve this phenomenon of animal migration. (LA)

Contact:

Leonore Apitz
Presse- und Öffentlichkeitsarbeit Radolfzell Max Planck Institute for Ornithology (Radolfzell)
Phone: +49 7732 1501-74
Fax: +49 7732 1501-69
Email: apitz@orn.mpg.de

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