The Inner Niger Delta (I.N.D.)
The Inner Niger Delta (I.N.D.) in Mali has been identified as a primary observation site for the long-term monitoring of avian influenza in wild birds in Africa. I.N.D. is the largest continental wetland in West Africa and the second largest in Africa. It is a vast ecosystem of major ecological and economic importance, particularly for fish and livestock production. It is one of Africa’s largest Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.
Stretching over 4,119,500 hectares in the midst of the Sahelian zone, I.N.D. supports high numbers of migrating Palearctic ducks in the northern winter, such as garganey (Anas querquedula) and Northern pintail (Anas acuta), Afro-tropical ducks such as white-faced whistling-duck (Dendrocygna viduata) and waders such as ruff (Philomachus pugnax).
Many wild birds are also hunted widely by local fishermen and hunters in the delta. Surveys conducted by Wetlands International and the Direction Régionale de la Conservation de la Nature (Regional Nature Conservation Department) of Mali have shown that several thousand birds are collected every year to feed local markets, especially in Mopti. This trade facilitates the collection of biological samples for avian influenza monitoring and represents a good observatory of avian influenza virus ecology at the wild bird/ domestic bird/ human interface.
The objective of the long-term monitoring study is to better understand the epidemiology and ecology of avian influenza viruses in wild bird populations. These populations will be described with regards to their composition and density, and the evolution of these two parameters over time and space. Information provided by birds equipped with telemetric units will help to further understand possible diffusion patterns within the African continent and across continents.
Biological samples will be collected regularly to detect and characterize avian influenza virus strains circulating at different periods of the year, and in birds of different ages, of different species, and living in different habitats. Concurrent similar studies will be conducted in domestic and commensal birds, and the comparison of strains isolated from these different birds will help identify possible transmission patterns.
All these data, together with other information collected from studies on the role of the environment (water, mud, climatic conditions, etc), will be mapped and analysed by risk analysis and modelling methods in order to provide veterinary services with recommendations on how to best prevent or control the transmission of avian influenza in the region.
January 12th, 2010
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