Unity Towards Improvement of Regional Biosecurity

QUEENSLAND - Queensland biosecurity experts have joined forces with their Papua New Guinea counterparts to implement systems for animal disease surveillance and control in the villages of Australia´s northern neighbour.
calendar icon 5 November 2008
clock icon 2 minute read

Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries principal project officer Dr Robert Hedlefs leads the $975,000, four-year project funded jointly by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and DPI&F.

The main aim of the project is to establish a village-based system for recognising diseases, and in doing so improve the supply of safe and sustainable food for villagers.

A second consideration, but of prime interest to Queensland, is to stop the spread beyond PNG borders, which would affect our agricultural trade and food production.

Central to the project is the education of villagers about the signs of animal disease, and encouraging them to report any illnesses.

Dr Hedlefs and another Townsville-based veterinarian, Dr Glen Kenneally, have travelled to PNG to work with that country´s chief veterinary officer Dr Nine Kapo to develop "train the trainer" programs.

"To reduce the language barrier problems, we have been training PNG government officials and volunteers, who then travel into villages and explain why keeping a close eye on their livestock is a good idea.

"We have also developed a diagrammatic check sheet to assist villagers in what they should be looking for, for example lameness or blisters in a pig, or discoloured combs in chickens."

Dr Hedlefs said disease incursions cost Queensland millions of dollars to eradicate or control, and often brings industries to a standstill.

"We have all lived through a range of incursions in recent years, including papaya fruit fly, black sigatoka, equine influenza and citrus canker and the disruption these have caused Queensland industry," Dr Hedlefs said.

Early detection of diseases such as avian influenza, swine fever and screw-worm fly in PNG could assist in local control or eradication, as well increase vigilance in bordering countries.

"Keeping their livestock healthy will also benefit the villagers of PNG by increased productivity, meaning more food on their tables. A disease incursion would be devastating for these villagers," Dr Hedlefs said.

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