Buffalo Relocation Aims to Curb Foot and Mouth Disease Threat to Livestock in Zimbabwe

This is an important exercise since these animals are associated with Foot and Mouth Disease and there are a lot of communities around, a government official said.

John Cassim

Harare, Zimbabwe – In a bid to curb the spread of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) from stray buffaloes to domestic livestock in communities near Eaglemont Range in the Lowveld, 84 buffaloes have been translocated to Nuanetsi Range in Chiredzi.

The Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) in the Ministry of Land, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development revealed Sunday that the buffaloes were moved to protect farmers within the area.

More than 10,000 households residing in the Eaglemont area, whose livelihoods heavily depend on livestock production, were directly affected by stray buffaloes. Some of those close to the conservancies do not have fences to keep the stray buffalos out.

Head of Wildlife Veterinary Unit, in the Department of Veterinary Services, Dr. Tapiwanashe Hanyire reiterated the importance of the exercise, stating that “This is an important exercise since these animals are associated with Foot and Mouth Disease and there are a lot of communities around. We are removing the buffalos to prevent the transmission of diseases from buffalos to cattle in the communities.”

He added that this is a mega boost to the Livestock Recovery and Growth Plan.

“It’s a deliberate focus on strengthened animal disease surveillance and control systems is designed to culminate in a thriving livestock industry. It is tailor-made to put in place solid interventions to address livestock production and productivity issues that lay a good foundation for the livestock sector to assume its prominence in transforming farmers’ livelihoods,” he added.

This operation will be rolled out nationwide, targeting buffalo keeping conservancies without recommended biosecurity measures in place to curb the scourge of Foot and Mouth Disease in the country to augment the livestock sector.

In Africa, buffaloes have been known to easily transmit a variety of livestock diseases at the wildlife and livestock interface.

These include African strains of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), Corridor disease (theileriosis), bovine tuberculosis and bovine brucellosis.

African buffaloes occur in many different habitats including woodlands, grasslands, swamps, floodplains and thickets, at a range of altitudes, provided they have access to an abundant supply of water and good quality grazing.

This species’ ability to survive in all but the more arid habitats, allows it to host a variety of pathogens under diverse environmental conditions.

Meanwhile the continued competition for land for habitation and agricultural purposes is posing a great danger to domestic animals.

At least 200 cases of Foot and Mouth disease have been reported so far in the country and movement of livestock has been banned.

However since 2016 Zimbabwe has lost nearly half a million cattle to Theileriosis also known as January Disease despite efforts to educate farmers on prevention methods like dipping and vaccination.

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