Air Cargo Heroes: Safeguarding Tigers from the Canine Distemper Virus

In response to the looming threat of Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) among tigers in India, an air cargo initiative played a pivotal role in safeguarding the endangered species.

Unlocking Wildlife Conservation: How Smart Cargo Airports’ Initiative Can Safeguard Tigers from Canine Distemper Virus

In 2018, I got a call on my mobile from my friends at the Indian Consulate. When I saw the caller ID, my appetite perked up. They usually call to invite me to some celebratory event that would have authentic versions of my favorite flavors, Indian food. As it turned out, the call was not to ask me to eat and celebrate with them, but they needed my help. They had an urgent shipment of vaccines for Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) headed from a pharmaceutical company in the SouthEast USA to India to save big cats that were endangered and dying. I jumped into action to help, having yet to learn what CDV was and why it was so important. I knew I had to provide top-class customer service because that was expected of me and my team.

This experience taught me a critical situation facing the Amur tigers in the Russian Far East. With its global reach and high mortality rates among wild carnivores, CDV emerged as a potential menace to the endangered tiger population, which has dwindled to fewer than 3,500 individuals in the wild across Asia.

The initiative undertaken by the air cargo team involved orchestrating the swift and secure transportation of critical perishable cargo to India—the mission aimed to address the CDV threat. The disease posed a risk to local tiger populations, and our actions were tailored to management interventions. Besides, Prime Minister Modi himself had requested our assistance.

CDV, initially identified in wild tiger populations in Russia, had begun to show anecdotal signs in tigers across several other countries, including India. The epidemiologists worked with partners in Thailand, Indonesia, India, Nepal, and Bhutan to tackle this potential crisis. They introduced advanced laboratory techniques to assess the presence of CDV in these regions and developed best practices for collecting diagnostic samples during routine management or research activities involving tigers.

The scientists recognized the diverse ecosystems tigers inhabit, from the snow-bound taiga forests in Russia to the lush rainforests of Indonesia. Understanding these variations, they conducted detailed research to assess the threat CDV posed to local tiger populations, incorporating population viability models and field research.

When CDV posed a significant threat, the team devised management interventions tailored to the local ecosystem. Vaccination emerged as a vital tool, with programs targeting both domestic dogs and tigers. Collaborations with zoos and the pharmaceutical industry were initiated to identify safe and effective tiger vaccination protocols, emphasizing the importance of tailored approaches for at-risk populations.

The implications of this air cargo-driven initiative extended beyond tigers, shedding light on the broader threat CDV poses to other endangered carnivores, including lions, African wild dogs, and Ethiopian wolves. By actively engaging in research and developing strategies to mitigate the impact of CDV, the team exemplified the broader commitment to safeguarding biodiversity.

This extraordinary endeavor underscores the indispensable role of air cargo in wildlife conservation. It serves as a testament to the interconnectedness of global efforts, where logistics, customer service, and a profound understanding of the value of air cargo converge to protect lives, even those of majestic big cats. In the face of such threats, the skies become a lifeline, carrying hope and resilience for our planet’s vulnerable species.

If you’re seeking guidance on enhancing your customer service, SASI World stands ready to offer tailored training and advisory services. Our expertise extends beyond conventional practices to ensure that your airport, airline, and ground handling services excel in efficiency and contribute to the preservation of wildlife, including big cats, and the well-being of people in times of urgent need. 

Feel free to reach out for a complimentary consultation to delve into the transformative capabilities of our trademarked Smart Cargo Airport product, which has been successfully implemented in numerous airports worldwide. As a team, we pride ourselves on a wealth of experiences, each member boasting at least one captivating story, perhaps even another fascinating tale of shipping animals—a testament to our commitment to exceptional service and unique, impactful endeavors. 

Sources: Cornell Wildlife Health Center

SASI World is Thera Solutions’ partner on aviation-related work.

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