Building Research Excellence in Wildlife and Human Health in Sri Lanka
Known for its dense human population, diverse wild animal species, and large population of domestic animals, Sri Lanka derives both risks and benefits from its wildlife. Among the benefits are a strong tourist economy, ocean and freshwater fish harvesting, and multiple ecosystem services. But important conflicts exist between wildlife and people, including spill-over of infectious diseases to livestock and humans (e.g., foot and mouth disease, leptospirosis (rat fever) and rabies). These factors make Sri Lanka a high-risk zone for disease emergence from wildlife. Building national scientific capacity for wildlife health management-a capacity currently lacking-could reduce the economic and public health impacts of emerging diseases, at both the local and global level. This project aims to build research excellence through a program of interdisciplinary research and training led by the Sri Lanka Wildlife Health Centre, which was created in 2011 at the University of Peradeniya. The Centre's operations are mentored by the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre (Saskatoon) and the Canadian Centre for Coastal Health (Nanaimo). The project's goal is to produce knowledge on wildlife diseases, mobilize multi-sector capacity for safeguarding wildlife and public health, and sustain local livelihoods. It will implement and evaluate a training program as well as a set of research studies on wildlife health in order to guide policies and social responses. Expected outcomes include a gender-informed understanding of how people obtain and use information on human-wildlife interactions and health implications. The project will also lead to better understanding of how diseases affecting wild animal populations spread and to stronger collaboration between producers and users of knowledge about wildlife. It will offer best practice models for programming and governance of the Wildlife Health Centre, and an evaluation tool to help other countries develop their capacity for wildlife health research.