Zoonotic diseases have now become one of the most talked about issues of our time. Why? Because the current COVID-19 pandemic is most likely a direct result of a zoonotic spillover event – a passage of non-human animal disease to humans. And this is not the first-time humankind has faced this kind of spread, and unfortunately, unless we take proactive and progressive steps, it may not be the last.
At the Jane Goodall Institute, we have been at the forefront of addressing this issue by providing strategic and integrated programs that improve human and wildlife wellbeing since the beginning. The interdependence of the health of the environment, people, and other animals has always been fundamental to what we call our ‘Tacare,’ community-led conservation approach. Today, this holistic concept is known more universally as ‘One Health’ – the idea that the health of people, wildlife, and the environment are deeply interconnected. As part of a webinar, titled “Emerging Disease, Wildlife Trade and Consumption, and the Need for Robust Global Governance: Exploring Ways to Prevent Pandemics,” Dr. Jane Goodall will share her perspectives and the urgent importance of community-led One Health work for the future of life on Earth.
The drivers of zoonotic disease such as habitat conversion, bushmeat and wildlife trafficking, and industrialized farming pose terrible threats – threats scientists warn will contribute to viruses causing pandemics even worse than COVID-19. Prioritizing wellbeing as a part of our overall mission, JGI’s One Health work addresses this problem head-on, and has been doing so for years. Much of this innovative work is facilitated by Dr. Lilian Pintea, vp of conservation science at the Jane Goodall Institute, working in collaboration with Africa Programs, Policy and Communications, and other departments. Lilian also collaborates with colleagues in Gombe Stream Research Center and several universities and major technology companies including Emory, Franklin & Marshall, University of Minnesota, Esri, Planet, Microsoft, and Maxar. The fruit of this interdisciplinary group has been several initiatives including the Gombe One Health Hub Project. The project is a new community-led ecosystem health platform for monitoring and understanding zoonotic spillovers. Launched in July 2020, the new platform combines innovative Esri mapping technologies with the JGI’s long-term data, Tacare community-driven conservation efforts and Gombe Eco-Health disease data and expertise. This includes:
- 60 years of continuous chimpanzee data
- 26 years of conservation efforts with the local communities and governments using Tacare
- 15 years of standardized health data on chimpanzee, baboons and other primates collected by the Gombe Eco-Health Project
- High resolution satellite imagery from Planet and Maxar
- Innovative non-invasive methods to increase disease surveillance using flies as sentinels and metagenomic tools in Azure
- Disease risk maps and dashboards via Esri Hub technologies
- All leveraged by powerful Esri ArcGIS Platform
This work is also complimented by supporting projects including a partnership with Planet to apply satellite data, field observations, and advanced analytics to help model, understand, and reduce the risks of emerging “zoonotic” illnesses, which are spread between wildlife and humans. In another exciting project, Microsoft has partnered with JGI to use robotic traps and metagenomic tools to monitor mosquitos in Gombe to detect pathogens before they cause outbreaks.
Full Talk from Lilian Pintea, vp of Conservation Science at JGI
Hi, my name is Lilian Pintea and I am the Vice President of Conservation Science for the Jane Goodall Institute. The world is facing unprecedented challenges. Scientists warn us that if we continue to ignore the causes of zoonotic diseases, such as intrusive destruction of natural habitats around the globe, bushmeat and wildlife trafficking, and cruel factory farming and live animal markets, we may be infected with viruses that cause pandemics even more disruptive than COVID-19.
Understanding the risk of zoonotic disease transmission is crucial to both human and animal health. If we put on the same map the Gombe National Park boundary in western Tanzania with village boundaries adjacent to the park and start overlaying areas used by chimpanzees, shown in light green, from long-term research data inside the park and local communities outside the park, along with other primate locations such as baboons, in red, vervet monkeys, in blue, reported by village forest monitories equipped with mobile devices and survey 123 mobile app, as well as locations of domestic animals like livestock, and threats such as poaching, combined that with human houses densities, roads and trails mapped from Maxar satellite images, you clearly see that people, livestock and animal presence overlap.
More than that, people, livestock, chimps, baboons are traveling inside and outside the park increasing the interaction between non-human animals and people. And other organisms living in the ecosystem, such as flies, may serve as vectors for pathogens by moving them between individuals and even between species, for example among non-human primates, people, and domesticated animals.
Combined with habitat disturbance and fragmentation, this all leads to more frequent contact between humans and wildlife, which results in an increased risk of zoonotic disease transmission. From these maps we can clearly see the interconnection between people, animals and the environment and the need for an integrated One Health Approach.
We can also see that to truly understand and manage the threat of disease to chimpanzees, other wildlife, humans and their livestock, and stop zoonotic spillovers, we need to properly engage and listen to communities about their needs and priorities; from data collection to combining indigenous knowledge with the best science and technologies available; and facilitating strategies and actions that enable community development, while also contributing to One Health approach for people, animals and the environment.
That’s why building on years of partnerships with the local communities and governments Jane Goodall Institute launched last year its One Health Hub to more closely monitor and better detect, prepare, and respond to zoonotic spillovers.
A community-led ecosystem health platform, the One Health Hub combines our Tacare community driven conservation approach with the latest community mapping technologies from Esri, high resolution satellite imagery from Planet and Maxar and collaborations with top disease researchers. It also includes improving the veterinary lab on-site in Gombe to increase disease surveillance and detection capacity and response to outbreaks rapidly using PCR, metagenomics tools and other AI and cloud technologies.
The goal is to have One Health Hub platform scaled to other areas to inform health management in landscapes characterized by high rates of human-animal overlap such as Budogo-Bugoma corridor in western Uganda. The remaining forests suitable for chimpanzees shown here in dark green are destroyed by deforestation driven by dense human settlements and land use change. One Health Hub is in addition to the decades of work that JGI has done through Tacare to advance girl’s education, healthcare training, support for clinics and family planning services.
It is part of a larger JGI Science strategy to leverage and use research, data and technologies with the local communities, partnerships, storytelling, and policy to accelerate the scale and pace of our conservation impact across all our programs and to achieve a more sustainable future for all, including people, animals, and environment.
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.