Distinguished scientists from Texas A & M University will be visiting the Hans Hoheisen research facility near Orpen Gate this month with a view to using it as a base to conduct genetic research on buffalo. The intended research will look for any genetic indicators for disease resistance in buffalo, specifically against bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis.
According to Dr Cobus Raath, chief consulting veterinarian to the Peace Parks Foundation, the scientists have carried out similar work on bison in America. Prior to their visit to Hans Hoheisen, the scientists will accompany Raath on a veterinary safari, which will see them micro-chipping rhinos and lions and collaring elephants.
The visit from the Texas A & M researchers will be one of the first displays of interest in Hans Hoheisen from international researchers. The Peace Parks Foundation and the Limpopo Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism jointly relaunched the Hans Hoheisen facility in April this year as the International Centre of Excellence in Biodiversity, Research and Information.
The facility, neglected in recent years, was originally intended to stimulate wildlife research in the lowveld. A cash infusion accompanying the re-launch has seen some refurbishment and renovation of the facility, but further plans are in the works to improve the infrastructure. Improvements will include new accommodation and laboratories to create a research village that will help the facility grow into its new grandiose title.
According to Ian Sharpe, provincial ecologist based at Hans Hoheisen, Limpopo nature conservation has also been looking at new projects for the re-vamped facility. Sharpe says that two of the most pressing items on the agenda will be research into the hippo populations in the Letaba and Olifants Rivers and a look into the leopard dynamics in the area.
Hippos are currently being captured in the Phalaborwa region of the Olifants River for relocation elsewhere, and high hippo numbers further downstream were implicated in the death of more than 500 fish in Kruger National Park (KNP) last month. When the facility was relaunched as the Centre of Excellence, the first research priority identified was veterinary studies in to diseases that threaten wildlife and their related impacts on humans and domestic livestock.