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Wildlife Health Handbook “Kitabu cha Afya Wanyamapori” now available in Kiswahili…

We are very excited to announce the release of the HALI project’s Wildlife Health Handbook – Kitabu cha Afya Wanyamapori in Kiswahili.  In 2010-2011 HALI worked with the USFWS Wildlife Without Borders program and Ruaha National Park on an education and outreach program to help park rangers and local game scouts of the MBOMIPA community led Wildlife Management Areas. Emanating from this series of participatory training programs for park staff, rangers, and game scouts, HALI developed an interactive handbook to serve as a first reference guide to Recognizing, Investigating, and Reporting Diseases of Concern for Wildlife Conservation and Human Health.

Download the Kiswahili version here!

While the English version of the Handbook has been available since last summer, the Kiswahli version took a little more time as we planned the translation with our great friend David Ngoseck and HALI team member and Tanzania National Parks Veterinarian Dr. Alex, and then reworked the layout and design at the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center with our fabulous publications coordinator and graphic designer Alison Kent.  The Kiswahili handbook brings this resource to life for our Central and East African stakeholders, and for the majority of game scouts, rangers, hunters, and other people involved in high-risk interactions with wildlife in the area.  The handbook is also a great primer in medical/veterinary Kiswahili for any folks out there interested in working with wildlife, animals, and health issues with East African communities.  Just download both our English and Kiswahili versions and work through the content and exercises.

Thanks again to all those who have been involved in this project, especially Deana Clifford, Andrea Kulkarni (our talented illustrator), David Ngoseck Mollel, Alex Epaphras Muse, Alison Kent, the USFWS Wildlife Without Borders Program, Tanzania National Parks (special thanks to Ruaha National Park and David Meing’ataki), the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center team, and of course my HALI colleagues in Tanzania.

Photo of the week – Roosters in Ruaha?

No guys, I haven't seen any roosters today sorry. Wait, are we talking about birds or bats here, I'm really confused (Photo by Misty Richmond).

Trapping Roosters (otherwise known as roosting bats)

Today our PREDICT team held a call with the Chief Ecologist of the PREDICT team in Cameroon Matthew Lebreton.  Matthew is an expert on bat capture and handling, with lots of experience doing disease surveillance work with bats from Australia to West Africa.  While Harrison, Zika, and Muhiddin explained to Matthew some of the challenges they face capturing small insectivorous bats in the Ruaha ecosystem, Matthew replied “you guys are doing pretty well actually.”  Small bats are difficult to capture.  Plus, unlike in the forests of Cameroon and Gabon where researchers place capture nets called mist nets perpendicular to known bat flyways under a thick rainforest canopy, the Ruaha ecosystem is open-air.  We all know firsthand from freeze tag that it’s easier to catch something in a confined area like an alley than in an open field.

To address this challenge, Harrison and Zika are trapping small bats (aka Roosters in HALI vernacular) in Ruaha by placing nets outside known roosting sites in the eaves of people’s homes (where the risk of bat-borne disease transmission is greatest), and at watering holes (like in the picture above) where bats and other animals may congregate together providing another interesting interface for disease transmission between bats and other wildlife and domestic animals like pastoralist herds and dogs. Matthew also suggested trying some trapping by hand (literally grabbing a bat with a heavily protected and gloved hand), and using another type of trap called a harp trap placed outside the roosting site.

Capturing small bats will continue to be difficult, especially since PREDICT’s bat surveillance is all new research for the Ruaha area.  But who knows, maybe they’ll discover a new species!  Muhiddin will be sharing some photos of the bat surveillance activities with us over the weekend, so when I receive them, I’ll post them to the HALI Facebook page.

New HALI Project Research Brief!

The Livestock and Climate Change Change CRSP has just released a new HALI project Research Brief featuring results of research conducted in the first year of new CRSP activities in Ruaha, Tanzania as part of the Strengthening Tanzanian Livestock Health and Pastoral Livelihoods in a Changing Climate project.  The brief, entitled “Pastoralist Access to Livestock Health Services: Implications for Climate Change-Driven Disease” is available for download on the LCC CRSP website.

RB-07-2012 – Pastoralist Access to Livestock Health Services: Implications for Climate Change-Driven Disease

Ian Gardner, E. VanWormer, C.R. Gustafson, G. Paul, A. Makweta, J.A.K. Mazet, W.A. Miller, and R.Kazwala, HALI Project

Pastoralists and livestock populations in semi-arid grassland regions across the world are extremely vulnerable to climate change impacts on water, pasture, and disease dynamics.  Disease, especially, can have devastating effects on livestock survival and marketability, threatening animal health and livelihoods.  In order to address this growing problem, researchers working in the Ruaha region of Tanzania have been preforming capacity assessments of the livestock health services available to rural pastoralists.

A tribute to Mr. Ally Kitime – friend and scientist

Mr. Ally Kitime, our friend and scientist.

With sad hearts and fond memories, HALI said goodbye to longtime project friend and colleague Ally Kitime this month.  Ally was a part of HALI from the beginning, as the Sokoine University of Agriculture Faculty of Veterinary Medicine’s Laboratory Manager and Principle Technician. His kind smile, gentle demeanor, and dedication to his work is best exemplified by the publications he enabled and those he helped graduate and train. Many of us on the HALI team, Harrison Sadiki, Deana Clifford, Woutrina Miller, Khadijah Said, Julius John, Enos Kamani, Annette Kitambi, Annette Roug, Liz VanWormer, and myself all learned from Ally, from his vast experience in the realm of laboratory diagnostics, and from his demeanor: no matter how stressful the project or intense the meeting there was always time for a smile, for a habari, and to remember that relationships and family trump an agenda.

I first met Ally when working on my masters project in Tanzania as a UC Davis student in 2008.  I will always find it ironic that my first laboratory experience was in Africa, and my first laboratory instructor Ally with help from friend and then HALI coordinator Deana Clifford.  Ally, Deana, and I were working with a young Bachelor’s honor student Enos Kamani on a project to determine the prevalence of Cryptosporidium and Giardia in calves in pastoralist herds.  Enos and I were training on the diagnostic technique, using an immuno-fluorescence microscope.  From that time, to the present, when my relationship with Ally was no longer face to face, but voice to voice on weekly Skype meetings with the PREDICT project, Ally was a trusted and respected colleague, a happy man in a white coat whose legacy lives on in the work of the students and collaborators he touched and in the lives of the family he leaves behind.  God bless you Ally, safari njema bwana…

We will preserve this post on the HALI blog as a remembrance  page for Ally.  Please click this link to visit the Tribute Page.  Comments and memories of your experiences with Ally are most welcome, so feel free to add them as comments.  If you would like to share pictures, please contact me (, and I will incorporated them into this post as a slideshow.

Ice cold (and colder) in Iringa

Admiring the new liquid nitrogen plant at the HALI office

Field work schedules are heating up, but the temperature at the HALI office is dropping to -196 C with the arrival of our long awaited liquid nitrogen (LN2) generating plant. After tracking its progress from port to port and then overland from Dar es Salaam to Iringa, the HALI team was excited to install Iringa’s first LN2 source this week.

East African exchange: David, a Stirling cryogenics engineer from Kenya, explains the inner workings of the LN2 generator


Our team used to travel over 300 km to Mbeya or Dodoma to purchase LN2, but, over the weekend, we produced 200 liters in our office backyard! What does that mean for HALI? It ensures that we can keep our field samples frozen at temperatures that help us to detect pathogens. It also means that we can deliver LN2 to our diagnostic laboratory at Sokoine University of Agriculture for safely storing and transporting samples to our partner lab at Makerere University in Uganda.

The dramatic first drops of LN2

Last Saturday afternoon, our Iringa team gathered to learn how to maintain and operate the mysterious new machine. Our fearless trainer, David, walked us through the maze of gauges and wires that lead to LN2 production. From the water chiller to air compressors and the helium release valve, our biologists and economists are all ready to keep the LN2 flowing. Led by our official LN2 plant operators, Erasto and Muhiddin, the future of HALI sample collection in Tanzania is bright, and happily, very cold.

Photo of the week

A herder walks with sheep and goats to water. (Photo by Misty Richmond)

Walking for water (Part 2)…

Last week we posted a photo of two Maasai women carrying buckets of water from the local creek to their homes for domestic use. This week we present Part 2 of the water saga.  In the Ruaha area, as is the case with most pastoralist communities, herders escort their animals from their bomas (livestock pens) to water on a daily basis, sometimes several times per day depending on the season, distance to water and the heat.  As water sources dwindle due to climatic variability, these walks grow longer and more strenuous for the animals and their herders.  On many occasions, we have accompanied pastoralists on these walks, only to find the creeks dry and water quality so low that we had to dig into the creek beds to allow water to bubble to the surface for the animals.  In the dry season especially, wildlife, livestock and people congregate at these limited watering holes, which become ideal interfaces for exposure to zoonotic and waterborne pathogens. HALI’s disease education program has been working with pastoralist communities to better  understand the health risks associated with sharing water sources with animals, and have been very successful in increasing adoption rates of water treatment practices like boiling, UV radiation, and filtration.

Check out some of our research briefs on water quality and use in the Ruaha area for more information.

You can click on this link to read more about the video: why even water in containers at home, like the buckets carried by the Maasai women, may still be at risk for contamination with water-borne and zoonotic diseases.