Written by Rory Young
A few people have gathered in Guinea to do something that doesn’t make big headlines and costs very little, yet is the most obvious way to prevent future outbreaks.
Unfortunately all the big news is about the billions of dollars being spent on defeating the outbreak and finding a cure and even more unfortunately nearly all the money is going into dealing with the effect and not the cause. People have for the most part forgotten that this virus originated with a bat poached and butchered in unhygienic conditions and which infected the first victim, a two-year-old child in Guinea.
Whilst the world is pouring gazillions into producing a vaccine, thirty senior officers from the Ministère des Eaux et Forets, along with representatives of other law enforcement agencies, are undergoing the first anti poaching training ever held in Guinea, in order to become anti poaching trainers themselves, so that they may in turn train another five hundred men as soon as possible. It will cost about one millionth of the cost of producing vaccines. Literally.
Whilst vaccines are important, it is important to also do the obvious; educate people not to handle bats and other animals and put an end to the illegal bushmeat trade.
This is not the first time that diseases originating from poached or illegally captured animals have sent the world’s health services into overdrive. There have been many others, most notably HIV/AIDS, SARS, bird-flu and marburg virus, all related directly to poaching or the trade in captive wild animals. What is cheaper? To prevent outbreaks such as these by protecting our environment and people from each other or by spending more on treatments?
There will be many more new and deadly outbreaks too, as long as the world continues to do next to nothing about the ongoing wreckless abuse of the environment. This is not something the world can turn away from. Just as Al Qaeda reached into everyone’s living room in the United States from the other end of the world and tore their hearts out, so too will tragedy attack from afar, again and again, the world over, in the form of diseases quietly waiting their opportunity to find new unsuspecting victims.
The overall training has been funded by the United Nations Office for Project Services and the European Union, and the trainer has been provided by Chengeta Wildlife and Lion ALERT. I am the trainer and am in Guinea right now working with UNOPS and the Guinean government, preparing the equipment, security protocols and logistics necessary to travel as soon as possible to Haut Niger National Park and begin the training.
It is an intensive course that will last five weeks and will cover all aspects of wildlife protection. The officers will undergo a period of lessons in theory, followed by practical training and then finally “in ops” training in the field. It is a mir