Bolivia offers a unique location to identify and characterize zoonotic diseases of wildlife origin. Its high diversity of ecosystems is translated into a high diversity of flora and fauna. There are 1,415 known species of birds and 389 species of mammals of which a third (125) are bats. Many of the ecosystems have been used by humans for thousands of years, and at present, the increase in human population, coupled with land use change driven by agricultural practices and/or cattle grazing, has increased the pressures on wildlife which facilitate the transmission of diseases that have the potential to become zoonotic and epidemic.
The 42,500 sq. mile Madidi-Tambopata landscape in Bolivia presents unique opportunities for rapid development and implementation of a comprehensive wildlife zoonosis surveillance program. The landscape spans the borders of northern Bolivia and southern Peru, with five protected areas and vast indigenous peoples’ territories. Madidi hosts over 300 species of mammals, including 11 primate species, 115 bats and about 100 rodents, with new species still being reported. Newcomers from urban areas, working for major infrastructure development projects bring people into closer contact with forest wildlife and pathogens. Wildlife trade is another route of disease exposure in humans as illegal wildlife markets (live, bushmeat and medicinal products) are common and increasing.
Country Coordinator: Dr. Erika Alandia Robles
In 2005 Dr. Alandia was hired by the Wildlife Conservation Society as a Field Veterinarian where she established the Domestic Animal Management and Wildlife Health Program in the Takana indigenous territory. In 2008 she became coordinator of WCS' Veterinary Science for Conservation, where she leads a growing team of young Bolivian veterinarians who are being trained on health monitoring and disease surveillance in livestock and wildlife, management of health conflicts at the wildlife/domestic animal/human interface, conservation medicine, laboratory analysis and participatory field work with indigenous communities for conservation purposes. In 2009, Dr. Alandia assumed the coordination of the PREDICT Program in Bolivia with the aim of creating local capacities for the monitoring and surveillance of zoonotic diseases in wildlife.