Kwantu Private Game Reserve launched the Nyathi research scholarship programme – an initiative which seeks to promote responsible wildlife conservation in support of safe and sustainable cattle and dairy farming in Southern Africa.
Nyathi, which means buffalo in isiXhosa, is a bursary programme sponsored by the Eastern Cape-based Jeeva Foundation to advance scientific knowledge in disease risk management of the African buffalo or Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer).
Kwantu is committed to meaningful research, education and rehabilitation programmes advancing conservation, but also sustainable and long-lasting empowerment initiatives to advance individuals and communities from less privileged walks of life through charity and development work in Uitenhage, Grahamstown and the greater Nelson Mandela Bay Metro area.
“The scientific study of buffalos remains an interesting, exciting and often unappreciated wildlife veterinary research focus area, especially with regard to the impact it can have on commercial livestock farming and dairy production,” said Shakir Jeeva, Kwantu Private Game Reserve CEO.
Jeeva said while African buffalo population remains in a conservation safe zone with acceptable numbers, and nearly three quarters of animals in protected areas in Southern Africa, the need for research is urgent to “close the back-door on the future risks as a result of inter-species spread of infectious diseases.”
“While the trading in and movement of buffalos constitute an important aspect of eco-tourism and are important for African game industries, these issues should be approached with caution, responsibility and respect in relation to agriculture and food security,” Jeeva said.
Buffalo play a major role in the maintenance and transmission of hand, foot and mouth disease, Corridor disease, bovine tuberculosis, and bovine brucellosis (BR), as a large percentage of the animals in Southern Africa are permanently infected with these diseases.
Researchers at the Department of Veterinary Tropical Diseases and the Directorate of Veterinary Services recently released a study in which they found that the buffalo populations that harbour these diseases were transmitting them to cattle livestock. This meant that trade and transfrontier conservation projects – which are both complex and costly – were therefore needed. On top of this, more reliable diagnostic tools to monitor infectious diseases in buffalo populations were also needed.
“The transmission and outbreak can have deleterious consequences for the industry and cattle farmers involved in the production of red meat and dairy,” Jeeva said.
He noted the issue remains especially problematic in the Eastern Cape, which he said was “a region deeply reliant on food production on the agricultural front but also wildlife trade and conservation from an eco-tourism perspective”.
Kwantu is now accepting applications for its Nyathi research scholarship programme. The scholarship will provide both financial and non-financial support to academically-deserving students pursuing veterinary research on a post-graduate research level at accredited academic institutions in South Africa. Students will be able to work alongside Kwantu Private Game Reserve’s veterinary research team to pursue original research on buffalos.
“Those seeking to make original research contributions in biodiversity management, zoology, game management or veterinary sciences should apply,” said Jeeva. He said the reserve is also keen to partner and collaborate with research institutions and animal health organisations in the country.
“We are looking for highly qualified and dedicated students that are committed to academic excellence to work with our in-house veterinary staff and researchers, and the reserve’s conservation specialists,” he said.
Original and concise research proposals from master students can be directed to the Jeeva Foundation. For the complete application procedure, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.