Here we are at Hlawga National Park. It’s an 800-acre park located in northern Yangon. It is incredibly popular –
many school children and family groups come here just so they can interact with a wide variety of wildlife that live here. What we have behind me is a group of local tourists feeding sambar deer which is a very endangered species within this country and within the entire region. There are various other species that are interacting with each other in close concentration. This includes over one thousand macaques as well as suids like pigs and wild boars, and then at night, thousands of bats in addition to rodents. This is a really good opportunity for us as veterinarians in the Global Health Program to study the interaction between humans and animals. In particular, studying zoonotic viruses that can be transmitted between animals and humans. Behind me we have a very large attraction—it’s elephants so of course we’re going to have a large group of people gathering up. In addition to concerns of the animal’s well-being, nutrition, and care, one of the fears that we have as wildlife veterinarians is zoonotic disease like tuberculosis. And because this disease is the same in humans and elephants, the two species can share it. This is both a public health concern as well as a conservation concern. Evaluating the presence in wildlife like elephants will help guide efforts to reduce or eliminate the spreading of the disease. We’ve already started conducting surveillance activity which includes collections of mucosal swabs and blood samples These samples are then sent to laboratories in Myanmar for viral analysis. The results of our work will help us understand what diseases are spread at these interfaces and will guide us in threat reduction for the safety and health of all species including humans.