Flying Vets Mongolia
Lead organization: The International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC)
Other participating organizations: Ministry Of Environment And Tourism of Mongolia, World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)
Wildlife in Mongolia is often in the spotlight at the international level, including two emblematic species, namely the Przewalski’s horse (Equus ferus przewalskii) and Saiga antelope (Saiga tatarica). The issue of wildlife-related diseases, some of which can be traced back to disease incidences in livestock, has been prevalent in Mongolia including the virus known as Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR) which led to the die-off of 1,000s of Saiga antelope in 2017. Due to the PPR the Saiga antelope population decreased by 85% from January 2017 to April 2018. In 1969, the Przewalski’s horse – the only surviving wild horse species that has never been successfully domesticated – was listed as extinct in the wild. However, to date through successful re-introduction programmes we have 2000 horses roaming in the Mongolian steppes but similarly to the Siaga antelope exposed pathological diseases. As Mongolia is located on the way of four major migration flyways it also closely monitors the Avian Influenza (AI) outbreaks. AI outbreak was recorded in wild birds in 2005 and 2006.
In addition, with the emergence of new zoonotic diseases along with other anthropogenic activities including the increasing number of domestic animals, the local communities face an increased risk of zoonosis. Many efforts are ongoing to try to minimize these threats, yet knowledge of conservation needs in Mongolia are growing. In addition, wildlife faces pressure from increasing domestic livestock.
Collaborating on the Flying Vets project with an initial pilot phase in Mongolia CIC and WOAH in close partnership with Ministry of Environment and Tourism of Mongolia and The Wildlife Conservation Society aim to promote and enhance the ability of local communities in Mongolia to identify, respond to and manage wildlife diseases including the negative consequences for wildlife-domestic livestock interactions through the transmission and spread of diseases including zoonoses, thereby reducing the potential threat posed to public health, food safety as well as wildlife conservation.
- In the context of the International Health Regulations (IHR), the Flying Vets Project will promote and assist the State of Mongolia in the implementation of IHR including to help limiting the spread of health risks to neighbouring countries and to prevent unwarranted travel and trade restrictions, while promoting the sustainable use of wildlife as captured in Target 5 of the Global Biodiversity Framework and in support of the Satoyama Initative (of which CIC has and remains a key supporter since its establishment at CBD CoP10).
- With reference and in support of the Quadripartite framework of FAO-WOAH-WHO-UNEP Memorandum of Understanding on tackling the challenges at the human, animal, plant and ecosystem interface using a more integrated and coordinated approach, the Flying Vets project aims to utilize and further develop existing evaluation and gap analyses tools (such as the WOAH Performance of Veterinary Service Pathway) to address emerging conservation challenges in the State of Mongolia
- The project aims to build on and support IHR-PVS National Bridging Workshops (NBW) facilitated by Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, World Health Organization (WHO) and World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), while also supporting the Veterinary Services in implementing the NBW roadmap and in particular strengthening the collaboration with the human and environmental health sector.
- Aligning with WHO, WOAH, FAO, and UNEP One Health Priorities, the Flying Vets Project seeks to strengthen animal health monitoring and surveillance as well as establish a reporting system at the national level by mobilizing CIC, WOAH and other relevant stakeholders for their potential role in surveillance to detect and prevent animal and zoonotic disease emergence, and to help control disease spread.
- The Flying Vets project seeks to address conservation challenges by promoting and facilitating the current knowledge of the local veterinarians by conducting capacity-building workshops and education programs to ensure greater communication of environmental challenges in the human and animal health sector through the One Health Approach.
- Initially, this pilot project will carry out a needs assessment and ecosystem analysis in Mongolia as well as understand the risk factors, including socioeconomic and cultural contexts, for disease spillover from wildlife to domestic animals and humans (and vice-versa), which will identify areas of potential intervention related to capacity and capability building of the local veterinarians and effective on-ground monitoring systems.
- In addition, the pilot project will map out the needs of local stakeholders and identify potential collaboration mechanisms between the different stakeholders, as well as assess government agencies’ interest/willingness to support this project on a larger scale in the long term. This will include both national Government bodies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) based in Ulaanbaatar and selected target regions, as well as rural stakeholders who would stand to benefit from the project (namely nomadic herders and falconers in rural areas of Mongolia) complemented by international experts.
4. Actors and Task Sharing
CIC advocates for wildlife conservation through the principles of sustainable use. The organization’s main strength comes from its membership, consisting of wildlife experts, opinion leaders, NGOs, educational institutions, public and private associations, as well as 27 CIC State Members through their relevant wildlife Ministries. With its diverse membership comprised also of hunters, the CIC has a strong presence on the ground allowing for continuous surveying and monitoring of wildlife species and wild habitats.
The role of WOAH is to improve animal health worldwide and thus to build a safer, healthier and more sustainable world. In 2020, WOAH published their Wildlife Health Framework, with the goal of “Protecting wildlife health to achieve One Health”. The two main objectives of this framework—now being implemented by WOAH as a strategy—are (i) Members improve their ability to manage the risk of pathogen emergence in wildlife and transmission at the human-animal-ecosystem interface, whilst taking into account the protection of wildlife, and (ii) Members improve surveillance systems, early detection, notification and management of wildlife diseases. In the context of Flying Vets, both the CIC and WOAH play a major role in planning and resource mobilization as well as consultations with national stakeholders and mapping out the roadmap for the project.
WSC aims to save wildlife and wild places in Mongolia through science, conservation actions and education. As a local organization, WSC conducts effective surveillance and monitoring programs on wildlife diseases. WCS has on going monitoring programs on Avian Influenza, Mongolian gazelle FMD and Mongolian saiga PPR. The organization has a strong focus on One Health approach and incorporates SMART approach in its wildlife disease investigation systems. WSC provides practical and on ground knowledge and outlines feasibility areas for the Flying Vets project by having close relationship with local communities in remote areas of Mongolia. As the local implementing agency, Ministry of Environment and Tourism takes the responsibility of implementing and enforcing the outcomes of the project on ground.
5. Relevance to the IPSI Strategy and IPSI Plan of Action
The Flying Vets aligns with the vision of the Satoyama Initiative which is to realize societies in harmony with nature where socio-economic activities align with and support natural processes. The project also overlaps on the Six Ecological and Socioeconomic Perspectives of the Satoyama Initiative.
The Flying Vets project is fully aligned with IPSI’s strategic objectives as well as with One Health approach and with the pillars of the CBD that specifically refer to effective conservation of biological diversity and considerations to public health. In fact, it is a direct response to implementing Target 5 of the Global Biodiversity Framework which was adopted this month at CBD CoP15 and reads as follows: “Ensure that the use, harvesting and trade of wild species is sustainable, safe and legal, preventing overexploitation, minimizing impacts on non-target species and ecosystems, and reducing the risk of pathogen spill-over, applying the ecosystem approach, while respecting and protecting customary sustainable use by indigenous peoples and local communities. “As wildlife diseases like PPR, FMD and AI are one of the major reasons for disappearance of the emblematic species of Mongolia, Flying Vets aims to improve disease detection and prevent their spill-over which in turn reduces the potential threat posed to public health, food safety as well as wildlife conservation. The project addresses the direct and underlying causes that are responsible for the decline and loss of biological diversity, by doing so this leads to overall healthier ecosystems that enhance benefits from SEPLS.
The consultation workshops ensure that Governments, and all stakeholders are involved in taking appropriate steps to achieve and implement concrete actions and plans for sustainable production and consumption as well as keep the natural resources within safe ecological limits. This is in line with the IPSI Strategy to enhance the human, institutional and sustainable financial capacities for the implementation of the Satoyama Initiative. In addition, this also reflects one of the Six Ecological and Socioeconomic Perspectives of the Satoyama Initiative.
The Flying Vets also aims to enhance implementation of the project through participatory planning and capacity building activities. The project aims to facilitate the professionals’ trainings of local veterinarians as well as in livestock herders to better recognize and handle of newly discovered diseases in wildlife species thus, increasing knowledge and understanding of SEPLS.
A group of key stakeholders with representatives from GAVS, SCVL, WOAH, FAO, and WCS proposed to develop an application for funding under UNEP’s Nature for Health multi-partner trust fund initiative, of which WOAH is a consortium partner. Three Mongolian Ministers provided endorsements in support of the application: the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Light Industries (MoFALI), the Ministry of Health (MoH), and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MOET).
In the initial stages, a total of €25,000 was raised for the project in form of donations, therefore the project is currently being implemented. In addition, the application was submitted on behalf of the Flying Vets working group by Chief Veterinary Officer, General Authority for Veterinary Services – GAVS. As a result of this application announcement was made at the CBD COP 15 in Montreal (December, 2022) that would allocate €2,000,000 for the next 3 years to the winning project.