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 West Cornwall Badger Vaccination Initiative is to work with local farmers, vets and wildlife groups to develop a locally appropriate way to control the spread of bovine TB on the isolated peninsula of Penwith in West Cornwall.
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 looking for motivated individuals to support us with our fieldwork. This includes surveying for badger setts, positioning badger traps, deploying bait and providing assistance with badger vaccinations. All volunteers will be fully trained by our ZSL field team and MUST be committed to respecting the welfare of animals, and the privacy of landowners. We are also keen to recruit landowners in the Penwith area who are happy for us to vaccinate badgers on their land.
To find out more about the project and how to get involved please contact our project coordinator, Seth Jackson, at firstname.lastname@example.org.