The First National Bank (FNB) Foundation stepped up the pace of the first phase of the project and handed over a cheque of N$500 000 to the Namibian Agricultural Union(NAU).
The NAU is the custodian of the world first project that will seek to find an antidote for the unique Namibian rabies virus, found only in the majestic kudus of the country. If Namibia should stand to lose big numbers of its kudu population, it will result in very significant economic losses to the farming and gaming industries of the country. Two previous outbreaks of the disease wreaked havoc amongst the kudu population and killed some 100 000 animals. This was the warning sent out by patron of the Rabies Project, Dr Libertina Amathila, last year during the launch of the first rabies donor project. She then noted that Namibia is an ever increasing popular tourist destination, pointing out that tourism grew by 32.1 percent between 2005 and 2011.
The project was started in 2010 after Agra ProVision drafted a proposal and started to source some funds with farmers contributing more than N$600 000 via small donations. Dr Dr Raimer Hassel says the main objectives are to improve knowledge about the specific mutation of the unique Namibian kudu rabies virus strand, to prove that transmission happens through direct contact and to develop an oral vaccination in conjunction with a German pharmaceutical company, and the University of Pretoria in South Africa. This will be the first study of its kind done in the world and the first phase will be completed by the end of the year. Kudus will be kept in bomas on a farm near Windhoek where they will be studied to see if they develop antibodies through the oral vaccination fed to them.
“The hunting industry is also growing rapidly and Namibia receives some 6 000 to 7 000 hunters per annum, with kudu as a highly sought-after trophy. Sadly enough, rabies in our kudu population is unique to Namibia and it is wreaking havoc with the kudu numbers. Whether these events occur due to increased game fencing, localised droughts that force kudus to congregate at limited feeding areas or whether it is part of inherent population control is an open question,” says Dr Hassel.

News Reporter