Tori Hall, a student of Mississippi State University, provided research support to create basic standards and protocols for bio-security and food security in wildlife farming for the Emergency Center for Trans-boundary Animal Disease in Vietnam.
Thanks to FAO and Mississippi State University, I got the opportunity to spend ten weeks living and working in Hanoi, Vietnam. Currently, I am a senior veterinary student at Mississippi State University, and I was very excited to see how Veterinary Medicine could be taken worldwide with an organization like FAO. I was fortunate to work with Dr. Scott Newman, a wildlife veterinarian and transboundry disease expert, and his ECTAD team in Hanoi.
During my time in Vietnam, I worked on Wildlife Farming issues and standards. Currently, one of the major projects of FAO ECTAD Vietnam is Avian Influenza. There are a great deal of efforts in Vietnam on controlling poultry disease, but other sources of disease threats, such as the emerging threat of unregulated wildlife farm operations, are starting to draw attention. At the request of the Vietnam government, FAO Vietnam is starting to look into wildlife farms and all the issues surrounding them. In Vietnam, it seems like everything that can be farmed is currently being farmed. There are farms full of all species of animals from crocodiles and snakes, to civet cats, deer, porcupines and primates. Farming wild animals in close proximity to people and traditional food animals (such as cows and pigs) presents a great deal of disease and public health risks. It is currently not known the extent of the wildlife farms in Vietnam, and the extent of the public health risks that these farms create. Because Wildlife Farming issues are just starting to be looked into, there was much work to be started. My main role was to start to gather information on creating basic standards and protocols for these farms in areas of biosecurity and food safety. I worked on creating parts of a manual that will hopefully be used at a later date to create registration standards for the farms and to also help farmers and governmental workers put into practice protocols to preserve animal, human, and environmental health around these farms. This is definitely an ongoing project and a great deal of field work still needs to occur to identify the real risks of the farms and to gather an accurate census of what animals are actually on these farms. It does seem clear though, that these farms raising large numbers of wildlife very close to humans and other animals present real risks that need to be assessed and addressed to help avoid emerging diseases.
Working on issues of wildlife farming was fascinating in Vietnam, but just as fascinating were opportunities to see how FAO works in the community and with other international organizations. I was able to sit in meetings with organizations like USAID and Center for Disease Control and watch the collaborative process between these organizations, FAO, and local governmental groups. I got to see the trials and tribulations of working with a foreign government and working with organizations from around the world, which was very valuable experience that you could never gain from a book or classroom setting. I was also lucky enough to see FAO in action in the community by attending World Food Day celebrations in a nearby village, and touring one of the largest live bird markets in Vietnam with officials from the Vietnam Agriculture Departments. I learned how much of an impact an organization like FAO has on the community around it, and how it has a fantastic ability to help shape future standards and regulations that directly impact human and animal lives.
My time in Vietnam was amazing. I was blessed to work with world class people that are working hard to change lives in Vietnam and I truly felt like I was living the dream. I graduate as a Veterinarian this May, and my Vietnam experience has helped solidify my passion for One Health medicine – working to ensure not just animal health, but human health as well.