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Scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the Ministry of Environment, and the Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries of the Royal Government of Cambodia have documented the first case of lumpy skin disease (LSD) in wildlife in Cambodia.
The case involved a banteng (Bos javanicus), an endangered wild cattle species, that was discovered by community patrol members from Our Future Organization while on patrol in Phnom Tnout – Phnom Pork Wildlife Sanctuary in September 2021.
It is suspected that the banteng contracted the virus from infected livestock grazing nearby as the virus had already been detected in domestic cattle in the country at that time. To protect free-ranging wild bovids from LSD, a vaccination campaign was launched for domestic cattle ranging within a 20 km radius of protected areas in Mondulkiri and Preah Vihear provinces. WCS and partners published the effort this month in Frontiers in Veterinary Science.
LSD is a highly contagious viral disease that primarily affects domestic cattle and buffalo but can infect wild ruminants. The virus is transmitted through biting insects and contact with infected animals or their bodily fluids. The disease is characterized by the appearance of raised, fluid-filled bumps on the skin, fever, and other symptoms. In severe cases, LSD can be fatal. It does not infect humans.
Through this collaborative effort between veterinarians, wildlife experts, NGOs, and government officials a total of 20,089 domestic cattle and water buffalo have been vaccinated to date around banteng habitat in Cambodia.
“This vaccination campaign serves as an example of protecting both livestock and wildlife health in parallel. Cambodia is conserving wild bovids by taking practical, preventative steps in improving livestock health,” said Mr. Daro Sok, the chief of investigation, Surveillance and Control of Animal Disease for the General Directorate of Animal Health and Production.
“This joint effort to provide this providing vaccination to cattle is verymay have played a crucial roleto in preventing a larger scale disease outbreak fromin both domestic andto wild cattle, and helped protect community livelihoods and especially to halt public health risks. We thank the Royal Government of Cambodia and our partners for their support in this important effort”, said Mr. Seng Teak, Country Director of the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) Cambodia. Since the launch of the campaign, no further cases of LSD have been reported in wild banteng or in gaur (Bos gaurus), another susceptible wild cattle species.
Although LSD is a serious threat to livestock and livelihoods around the world, data are scarce on the impact on and susceptibility of wild ruminant populations. LSD is one of several diseases emerging as a direct consequence of livestock and agricultural encroachment into wildlife habitat. Targeting prevention measures towards domestic animal hosts, as was carried out around Cambodia’s protected areas, is an example of One Health in action to protect biodiversity.
The banteng was first detected and reported through Cambodia’s wildlife health surveillance network as part of the WildHealthNet initiative funded by the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency. The vaccination campaign in Cambodia was sponsored by WCS’s REDD+ initiative, Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, and WWF, and implemented by WCS and government partners together. WCS is working on the frontlines to reduce risk of pathogen spillover, such as African swine fever and highly pathogenic avian influenza, at livestock-wildlife interfaces across the Mekong region. Wildlife health surveillance remains ongoing in Cambodia to ensure early detection and reporting of wildlife health events across the country.
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