The prevalence of wildlife trade in Lao PDR and the significant threat it poses to wildlife means that the priority of the Wildlife Health Team is to obtain and use information on diseases in wildlife, livestock and humans to reduce trade.
WCS uses science-based disease research to inform national policy and increase political will, as well as to counter traditional beliefs on the health benefits of consuming wildlife.
Through its role in the development of a National Wildlife Disease Surveillance Network nationwide across Lao PDR, WCS aims to contribute to overall socio-economic development of the country by contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals of Lao PDR through supporting livelihood and agriculture by providing improved understanding of disease affecting livestock, and through adopting a One Health integrative approach. This will be achieved through improving knowledge of zoonotic and economically important disease agents carried by wildlife. Through the greater understanding of these pathogens, WCS aims to support the Lao government in protecting the health of the people of Lao PDR.
The WCS Wildlife Health Team is involved in several projects in Lao PDR:
- As part of its work on the PREDICT project, part of the Emerging Pandemic Threats (EPT) program, WCS aims to identify zoonotic diseases in traded wildlife that could have pandemic potential and therefore serious human health and economic impacts. The goal is to use the information to demonstrate the serious implications of wildlife trade and to support better enforcement on illegal wildlife trade. During this work, the team visits wildlife markets across the country and samples wildlife that is deemed high risk for zoonoses (primates, bats, rodents and civets). Whilst at the markets, surveys are conducted, recording species, volume and prices of traded wildlife. This data is used to help build up a picture of the scale of domestic wildlife trade in Lao PDR and the threat it poses to protected species. The samples are then processed at laboratories.
Training staff at national protected areas in wildlife disease surveillance methods. The training is integrated into a large-scale training-of-trainers project, aiming to create a core group of NPA staff that can pass on skills to rangers on the ground. The disease training will be passed on to rangers, who will record dead and diseased wildlife in the NPAs, helping to build up a baseline database of wildlife mortality and monitor disease outbreaks.