Oral Presentation 64th International Conference of the Wildlife Disease Association 2015

Participatory epidemiology and Indigenous knowledge about muskoxen and caribou in the Canadian Arctic: preliminary insights for wildlife health surveillance. (#52)

Matilde MT Tomaselli 1 , Craig Gerlach 2 , Susan Kutz 1 3 , Carl Ribble 1 , Lisa-Marie Leclerc 4 , Sylvia Chekley 1
  1. Ecosystem and Public Health, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada
  2. Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Calgary, Calgary, CANADA
  3. Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative, University of Calgary, Calgary, CANADA
  4. Department of Environment, Government of Nunavut, Kugluktuk, CANADA

Muskoxen and caribou are two important species for ecosystem health in the Arctic.  They are also an essential source of food for Arctic people and central to community well-being, cultural heritage and identity. Recent evidence suggests that muskox population have declined around the community of Ikaluktutiak on Victoria Island (Nunavut, Canada); moreover, mid-summer die-offs of muskoxen have been reported on both Bank Island and Victoria Islands (Northwest Territories and Nunavut, Canada). To gather baseline information on the health status of wild muskoxen, we designed a project in the community of Ikaluktutiak combining qualitative and quantitative research methods. Early on during the research we documented people observations and concerns also about caribou in the same area. We therefore implemented the project to gather baseline information on both wild ungulate species. Participatory methods, originally developed in pastoral communities of Africa, were adapted to our context to gather Inuit ethno-veterinary knowledge about the wildlife that the local community depends on for subsistence. During summer 2014, individuals (N=30) were interviewed in the community of Ikaluktutiak to compile baseline information on local muskox and caribou abundance, distribution, health and changes over time. These data were then used to design the small-group interviews (N=7) that were conducted in winter 2014 in the same community. We used participatory exercises and proportional piling techniques to document the perceived population declines, changes in body condition status, relative prevalence of diseases, and observations of endemic and emergent diseases within the studied wildlife populations. Here we discuss the importance of combined participatory methods in the context of wildlife health surveillance. Methodological insights are presented for implementing wildlife health surveillance systems using the best available knowledge and in communities with limited resources.