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RF veterinary service: Ban on wild boar culling might be fraught with biological catastrophe

August 01, 2013, 21:54 UTC+3
The epidemic of African swine fever has spread across the entire European Russia
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Photo ITAR-TASS/Valery Matytsin

Photo ITAR-TASS/Valery Matytsin

MOSCOW, August 1 (Itar-Tass) - Wild-boar protection measures suggested by the Russian ministry of natural resources may be fraught with a biological catastrophe harmful to the country’s agrarian sector and to the boar population as well, Alexei Alexeyenko, an aide to the head of Russia’s federal veterinary and phytosanitary control agency (Rosslekhoznadzor), told Itar-Tass on Thursday, commenting on the statement by the Russian ministry of natural resources, which voiced concern over Rosselkhoznadzor’s initiative to cull the wild boar population in European Russia as a measure to stop African swine fever (ASF) further spreading. Instead, the ministry suggested a ban should be imposed on pigs and pork movements from one region to another without ASF tests.

“If the wild boar population was exterminated in a relatively narrow region of the North Caucasus back in 2007, the current outbreak might have been prevented,” Alexeyenko said. “Now, the epidemic of African swine fever has spread across the entire European Russia, because of the position of the ministry of natural resources. Now the disease is a continental-scale threat.”

He reminded that the latest ASF outbreak had been reported from a region in Belarus that borders Poland and Lithuania. “The outbreak at the border with Poland is a threatening signal,” he noted. “Risks of the infection spreading are colossal, since Poland has a very big wild boar population. Infected animals will spread ASF across the entire Europe just overnight.”

“Naturally, the extermination of the wild boar population to create a kind of buffer zone is not the only but an extremely important measure to stop African swine fever epidemics,” Alexeyenko stressed.

To prevent African swine fever from penetrating into their territories, the Baltic countries and Poland plan to build kilometers-long fences along the borders with Russia and Belarus. “Head of Lithuania’s veterinary service Jonas Milius confirmed information about Lithuania’s and Latvia’s plans to build a fence at the border with Russia and Belarus, where ASF outbreaks have been registered,” Alexeyenko said. “It might be a much bigger project: a fence will separate us from other Baltic countries and Poland. The purpose is to prevent the migration of wild boars that carry the infection.”

Earlier, director general of Latvia’s food and veterinary service Maris Balodis said that it would take at least ten million euro to build anti-boar fences.

As of today, the epidemic of African swine fever has spread across practically the entire European Russia. Some regions are facing a threat of the collapse of the entire pig raising sector. The most difficult situation is in the Tver and adjacent regions, and in the Voronezh region. Direct damage to the sector is estimated at billions of roubles, while indirect damage may reach tens of billions. A special federal program is needed to tackle the problem, Rosselkhoznadzor said. The agency also urges to pass clear nationwide veterinary rules, “since measures taken in individual regions are not enough.”

The first case of African swine fever or Montgomery’s disease was registered in South Africa in 1903. Both domestic pigs and wild boars are susceptible to the disease in natural conditions. The infection is contracted through contact of healthy and sick animals. While the African swine fever is of no threat to humans, it is extremely dangerous for livestock. There is no anti-ASF vaccine and the only way to fight the infection is disinfection, quarantine and the slaughter of the entire pig population in the seat of infection.

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