On Wednesday, August 25, 2010, the Hans Hoheisen Wildlife Research Station was officially opened for the second time. Delegates from the Peace Parks Foundation, the University of Pretoria and Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency attended the event.
Built in 1980 on land donated by Hans Hoheisen, the station was first opened in 1983 and 27 years on it is looking better than ever. This is thanks to an extensive five year refurbishment plan that has taken the research station from near disrepair to a platform for both local and international veterinary research.
Understanding disease, especially the way they are transmitted is becoming increasingly important in a world where barriers are constantly being dropped and 60% of infectious diseases are zoonoses - diseases passed from animals to humans like HIV and avian flu.
This is why a research facility at the interface between wildlife, livestock and humans was so crucial, and the Hans Hoheisen facility was the obvious candidate being situated adjacent to the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park and its neighboring communities.
Years of neglect had meant the Hans Hoheisen Wildlife Research Station had become a shadow of its former self when renovations began five years ago. The renovations were made possible thanks to the generous donations from the Hans Hoheisen Charitable Truest, the Peace Parks Foundation, Alexander Forbes, Foundation Hoffman and the Turner Foundation and the station will now be managed but he University of Pretoria to ensure the mistakes made in the past are not repeated.
Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency has also done their part to ensure the station gets off to the best start by making it available free of charge to support all research activities.
At the opening it was announced that the first study to come out of the research station will be a project looking into the spread of foot and mouth disease and possible control methods. Foot and mouth is a disease that is prevalent in Mpumalanga and that costs farmers around the globe billions of Rand every year.
Foot and mouth is just the first, the vision is that the station will play a significant role in facilitating critical veterinary research projects that will influence transfrontier policy making as well as disease management and control in conservation areas.
The research station will achieve this by implementing and prioritizing research programs and providing infrastructure as well as support for local and international researchers using the station. While the station will look at all aspects of disease, the key focus will be on the veterinary challenges posed by transfrontier parks.
By Dr Katy Johnson