The Jane Goodall Institute’s approach to science integrates the needs and threats facing people, other animals, and the environment, as these three must operate in harmony for the ensured sustainability of each. JGI has long been a proponent of integrated, holistic approaches, taking a One Health strategy from the start. One Health, now a well recognized concept, is critical for the well-being of our world and its diversity of inhabitants. This has never proved more critical than during the Covid-19 pandemic, which has been identified as being the result of trafficking of wild animals — likely pangolins — causing a zoonotic spillover event of a coronavirus jumping from wildlife to humans.
Launched in July of 2020, JGI’s Gombe One Health Hub builds on decades of innovative work and is a community-led ecosystem health platform dedicated to monitoring and understanding zoonotic spillovers. Tracking disease that has the potential to jump from wildlife to the human communities is necessary for our growing capability to anticipate transmission and combat its effects. The threat of zoonotic disease is growing, and many scientists predict that the next great pandemic will be a result of our continued imbalance with the natural world, particularly as deforestation puts humans and wildlife in closer proximity.
JGI’s veterinary lab in Gombe will increase its disease surveillance as well as detection capacity and outbreak response. The lab team plans to deploy non-invasive methods for rapid, on-site diagnostics, thanks to the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) process, which will enable JGI to scale a small DNA sample for a more comprehensive study. In addition, one of JGI’s methods for obtaining data is via our partnership with Microsoft on Project Premonition, which uses robotic traps to capture mosquitoes and extract DNA from blood samples. The reason for this practice is that mosquitoes serve as vectors for pathogens as they feed on species. The Gombe lab staff will be able to determine whether these mosquitoes feed on different species and investigate the potential viral load.
To better understand, anticipate, and address zoonotic disease, the Gombe One Health Hub utilizes Esri ArcGIS technologies to integrate scattered core datasets for a range of categories, from wildlife habitat maps to human land-use plans. Such cross-cutting insight is made available to the JGI team through expanded community monitoring efforts, using mobile technologies to include One Health protocols. The JGI team also plans to conduct qualitative interviews to identify specific people and their livestock health, create contact risk maps to discern potential pathways for disease transmission, and communicate findings to decision-makers and stakeholders through easy-to-understand maps and dashboards.
Empowered with the detailed insight and informed analysis, the JGI team will be able to manage an outbreak by way of administering single-dose antibiotics to wildlife via blowpipe. This proven treatment will allow the JGI team to be safe and effective, diminishing risk of spread, illness, and death. Although many respiratory infections are caused by viruses for which we do not have treatments, they are often made worse by secondary bacterial infections. Thus, the implementation of the blowpipe antibiotic treatment gives affected primates a much stronger likelihood of recovery, well before the possibility of disease being passed onto humans.
The goal of the Gombe One Health Hub is to combine innovative mapping technologies with JGI’s long-term data, Tacare community-driven conservation efforts, and Gombe Eco-Health disease data and expertise. Through this integration, JGI will be able to improve the prediction, detection, preparedness, and response to disease outbreaks — stopping future pandemics in their tracks.
The Jane Goodall Institute is a global community conservation organization that advances the vision and work of Dr. Jane Goodall. By protecting chimpanzees and inspiring people to conserve the natural world we all share, we improve the lives of people, animals and the environment. Everything is connected—everyone can make a difference.