Horse owners mull action over deaths

Horse owners mull action over deaths

Wildlife Dept in the crosshairs over AHS

An official counts zebras at a private zoo in Chachoengsao province. A ban on imported animals was imposed following the outbreak of African horse sickness. Photo by department of national parks, wildlife and plant conservation
An official counts zebras at a private zoo in Chachoengsao province. A ban on imported animals was imposed following the outbreak of African horse sickness. Photo by department of national parks, wildlife and plant conservation

The owner of a horse farm is considering suing the National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department and other state agencies for approving imports of wildlife from Africa, believed to be the source of a disease outbreak that has killed many prized racehorses in Nakhon Ratchasima.

Uthen Chatphinyo, owner of a racehorse farm in the province, said African horse sickness (AHS) has killed 21 of 160 of his horses. The dead horses are priced at approximately 50 million baht.

Nopphadon Sarobon, the owner of another horse farm, said he had lost 20 horses that he had bred for sale. Each horse had a price tag ranging from 400,000 and 800,000 baht.

The owners and academics yesterday petitioned the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry to include AHS in the list of disease outbreaks to be controlled under the Animal Outbreaks Act. The law bans any movements of horses, prohibits the import of zebras and other wildlife species, and mandates a panel be set up to deal with AHS.

Chetthaphong Meksamphan, the former dean of the Faculty of Fisheries at Kasetsart University, said it was important to find out who imported AHS-infected wildlife from Africa which subsequently led to the transmission of the disease to local horses.

"Zebras, for instance, are freely imported through Suvarnabhumi airport as though they were cats or dogs," he said. This is because zebras are not among the controlled species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites).

"The state must investigate and find out exactly how many zebras were brought in between last December and February of this year and where the imported animals are," Mr Nopphadon said.

In February, some zebras were reported to have been resold to buyers in Hua Hin district of Prachuap Khiri Khan instead of being re-exported to China, their intended destination. Blood tests revealed that these zebras were infected with AHS, according to Mr Nopphadon.

A source in the Livestock Development Department said the department was alerted to an incident of unusual deaths of horses on March 26.

An investigation later discovered that the disease outbreak began on Feb 24 at several farms in Nakhon Ratchasima.

The department carried out measures to contain the outbreak including screening horses, testing their blood for AHS infection and advising farms not to move their horses, said the official.

No cure or a vaccine is available locally for the infected horses, the source said.

At this point, the benefits and danger of AHS vaccination are being weighed, the same source added.

Meanwhile, Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Prapat Pothasuthon has vowed to stop the outbreak as soon as possible.


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