June 29, 2008

Avian influenza surveillance training in Hovsgol aimag

Hello All,

I thought you might appreciate the attached photo taken at the conclusion of our avian influenza surveillance training session held in Hovsgol aimag, Mongolia on 22-23 June 2008.

The initial concept had simply been to initiate our
Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) field team in bird survey and sampling techniques in order to prepare them for the summer fieldwork. However, following discussion with Erdenetsetseg, head of the aimag (provincial) veterinary laboratory in Moron, it became clear that there was also considerable interest among the local veterinary and environmental departments to join the sessions. Thanks to support from Murray MacLean (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization), and Ts. Purevkhuu (Department of Veterinary Service, Ministry of Food and Agriculture of Mongolia), we were able to secure funds to extend attendance to representatives involved in influenza surveillance at the district, provincial and national level.

In total 38 people joined the training including 17 from the WCS surveillance team (plus seven support staff), six from the Veterinary Departments in Hovsgol and Bulgan, four from the National Environment Office and one from the Institute of Biology, Mongolian Academy of Sciences, two from the Veterinary Research Institute and a visiting researcher from the University of Iowa. Among the attendees were three veterinarians from our WCS-Afghanistan programme as well as Chea Sokha, a member of our WCS surveillance team active in Cambodia.

The two-day course began in Moron, with indoor sessions including introductions to avian influenza, bird identification and colour marking, before relocating to Sangiyn Dalai Nuur, the lake where WCS field surveillance will begin this summer. The following day included practical sessions in bird identification, mortality surveying and GPS navigation.

The highlight of the whole course came during the bird identification practical, when the first waterbird observed by the team turned out to be a Bean Goose wearing a WCS neck collar that had been tagged during our work in July 2007! This species will be the focus of our early work in the 2008 field season, and together with our collaborator Thomas Heinicke in Germany (who supplied the collars), we will increase awareness of this species in potential wintering quarters in China with the intention that resightings of collared birds during the winter will further define the migratory routes and wintering areas of this little known Mongolian species.

Best wishes to all,


Martin Gilbert M.R.C.V.S., B.V.M.S.
Wildlife Veterinarian, Associate Director - Asia,
Global Health Program, Wildlife Conservation Society

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