Assessing Pathogen Exposure of Argali, Siberian Ibex and Markhor in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan
Principal Investigator: Martin Gilbert
DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant):
Anecdotal reports indicate that outbreaks of infectious disease represent an important threat to maintaining viable herds of wild sheep and goats in Central Asia. Due to their numerical dominance in the region, domestic livestock herds represent the most plausible epidemiological source of disease outbreaks in wildlife, and are therefore the only logical target for management interventions. However, rational design of veterinary support programs requires an understanding of the pathogens that represent the greatest threat to wild populations. Our project seeks to address this by introducing a program of pathogen surveillance focused on argali, Siberian ibex and markhor in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Our approach introduces collection of blood samples during managed trophy hunts, which are then tested by us in a national veterinary laboratory for the presence of antibodies to key pathogens indicating previous infections within the population. Over time this strategy will enable us to: 1) identify the pathogens that represent the greatest risk to wild ungulates, 2) determine geographical areas where disease exposure is most intense, and 3) assess temporal trends in pathogen circulation. The results of this surveillance program will inform our complementary project now underway in Tajikistan, which is focused on assessing the health of livestock and designing veterinary interventions to reduce the threat of pathogen spillover for wild ungulate herds.