One Health is a multi-disciplinary approach that brings the health of humans and animals together into a broad ecological context. The health of all species is intertwined. Ecologists, veterinarians, and physicians work together to address complex issues regarding habitat use, climate change, disease emergence, conservation of biodiversity, and sustainable wellbeing of animals, plants, and people within communities. The integration of knowledge from different disciplines is crucial for efficient environmental research and health initiatives.
However, the veterinary and human health fields frequently dominate One Health. More specifically, efforts are heavily focused on diseases. Projects are either solely on human health affected by the environment, or the zoonotic transmission of diseases from livestock to people. Wildlife professionals who incorporate a One Health approach in their research tend to focus on diseases in wildlife in relation to the environment that is often disturbed by human activity. I’m actually in the process of a pilot study to investigate possible zoonoses spread from livestock to snow leopards after meeting a physician with an infectious disease specialty to collaborate with. Never did I ever think about working with physicians in wildlife research! Although disease management is important, One Health is meant to be inclusive of ALL aspects of conservation and health.
When I first got involved in zoology, I had a one-track mind: Study carnivores in the wild. I knew that conservation is more than just tracking animals, collecting their DNA, getting pretty pictures on camera traps, and writing up academic reports. Conservation is strongly about helping the local communities who live and work directly with the wildlife. When it comes to conservation of large, and dangerous, wildlife, projects focus on protecting livelihoods, trying to keep those species out of villages, or teaching local people how to coexist with certain species by understanding the animals’ behavior.
But what happens when wildlife and humans clash, causing injury or even death to either? How are those incidents managed? If those working in conservation are badly hurt, they can’t do their job. If the agency they work for doesn’t have any official training and policies in place to mitigate the risks to the safety of their conservation staff, then less people will be willing to do those jobs in the first place, let alone last very long if they were.
This is where a unique One Health approach comes in. The Tulsi Foundation, founded and directed by emergency physician Dr. Chet Trivedy, is a UK-based organization dedicated toward providing trauma training to frontline conservation staff. Rangers and local researchers work in highly remote areas with limited or no access to medical facilities, clean water, or protective gear as they endure harsh environmental hazards. Many have been severely injured or killed in the line of duty while working to protect their natural resources and wildlife.
Since 2016, The Tulsi Foundation has partnered with the Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT) of India as the only organization implementing trauma training to rangers in tiger reserves. To date, they have worked in 3 Indian states, within 43 training camps between 14 reserves, and have trained a over 1,000 rangers. They have also provided health checks to 341 rangers to assess and address medical needs, many of whom have never had a basic medical check-up before. While working in tiger reserves, rangers are at risk from issues such as trauma accidents, animal (sloth bears, tigers, elephants, leopards etc) and poacher attacks, venomous snakebites, and malaria.
Training workshops include engaging lectures on first aid, basic life support, preventing injuries and illness from environmental hazards, psychological health challenges, the use of malaria testing kits, and checking blood pressure. Workshops also use various first responder scenarios, including how to handle a situation with an armed, injured poacher, to give hands on experience.
The Tulsi Foundation Vision:
- Provide emergency and trauma training for frontline conservation staff
- Provide remote medical assistance to conservation staff during emergencies
- Develop networks between health and conservation to promote better health and safety
- Provide advisory support to NGO’s and governments to create healthcare policies for conservation staff
- Develop an academic, evidence-based approach to training and healthcare to ensure that interventions are measurable, sustainable, and cost-effective
For the month of December, 2017, I joined The Tulsi Foundation in India to apply my training as an Army Combat Lifesaver, growing passion for wilderness medicine, and field experience with human-wildlife conflict to this one-of-a-kind program, aiding in health checks, trauma training, and organizing data collected on ranger health concerns. Now, I serve as the Director of Communications for The Tulsi Foundation where I am not only helping with the field training, but also advising on conservation policies, liaison with project partners and sharing outreach with the public, and assisting in research.
The Tulsi Foundation is hoping to broaden its programs to conservation staff in other regions of the world as well. If you are with an organization that is interested in this training for your field staff, want to know more, or would like to support The Tulsi Foundation, contact:
Dr. Chet Trivedy BDS FDS RCS (Eng) MBBS PhD FRCEM