Badger vaccination

Badger

ZSL is researching whether badger vaccination can reduce TB infection in the badger population, and whether this helps control TB in cattle

 

What is the purpose of the project?

Bovine tuberculosis (TB) is a major problem for Britain's cattle farmers. Despite sustained efforts to control the disease, over the past 30 years the incidence of infection in cattle has increased, and the geographical extent of the disease has expanded. A contributing factor has been the persistent infection of bovine TB within wild populations of badgers. The purpose of the Badger Vaccination Project is to work with local landowners, farmers and wildlife groups to develop a locally appropriate way to control the spread of bovine TB in Cornwall.

Where are we vaccinating badgers?

ZSL is currently working in three areas of Cornwall to vaccinate badgers:

Penwith in the far west of Cornwall is one of the largest remaining areas of land to not be culled, and so it is an ideal location to collect data on how badger vaccination works in an unculled population.

An area of mid-Cornwall where a group of farmers were unable to join a cull due to landowner restrictions and in addition decided that vaccination was a more sensible long-term disease management technique. ZSL work in collaboration with Cornwall Wildlife Trust to deliver annual vaccination, and in addition we collect data to monitor the changes in infection prevalence over time.

An area of west Cornwall around the River Cober where a group of farmers and landowners decided to pursue badger vaccination rather than badger culling as a sustainable approach to disease control. ZSL are using this opportunity to collect further data on the infection prevalence of the badger population and to monitor how this changes over time.

Release of a vaccinated badger
Release of a vaccinated badger. Photo Kelly Astley

Why vaccinate badgers?

Government research has shown that vaccinating badgers can reduce the risk of bovine TB in individual badgers and reduce the transmission of the disease from badger to badger. It is therefore likely that vaccinating badgers could also reduce transmission between badgers and cattle, but this hasn’t been tested. In the course of this project we hope to learn whether badger vaccinations can reduce TB infection in the badger population, and whether this helps control TB in cattle.

How are badgers vaccinated?

Badgers will be vaccinated by hand, in cage traps placed near badger setts. Most badgers will be vaccinated, awake, by trained and licensed vaccinators, but some will be anaesthetised briefly so that researchers can collect blood samples to check that the vaccine is working. All vaccinated badgers will be marked with a fur clip or a microchip to avoid vaccinating the same animal repeatedly. All badgers will be released promptly at the point of capture.

How can I get involved?

We are very keen to meet landowners across any of our vaccination areas in Cornwall to discuss the possibility of vaccinating on their land, which we are able to offer for free!

Badger Vaccination FAQs

PDF icon Badger vaccination project FAQs (270.04 KB)

To find out more about the project and how to get involved please contact us at badgers@zsl.org

Project Staff

Professor Rosie Woodroffe, Principal Investigator

Kelly Astley, Badger Vaccination Coordinator

Dr Cally Ham, Badger Project Coordinator

Verity Miles, PhD Student

Henry Grub, PhD Student


Watch Prof Rosie Woodroffe talk more about badger vaccination at the badger vaccination conference on Youtube.

Collecting a blood sample from anaesthetised badger
Collecting blood from a vaccinated badger. Photo Natalie Durrant

More information

For further information contact badgers@zsl.org

Badger cattle contact project

ZSL's Badger Cattle Contact Project is researching contact between badgers and cattle to understand how bovine tuberculosis is transmitted between the species.

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