Official opening of wildlife health genetic and forensic laboratory between EcoHealth Alliance and Sabah Wildlife Department

December 09, 2013

KOTA KINABALU, SABAH, MALAYSIA - December 9, 2013 - Today marks a momentous day with the official opening of Sabah's first Bio-security 2 laboratory in Lok Kawi. The setting up of this lab was a joint initiative between Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), EcoHealth Alliance (EHA) and Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC). The WHGFL opening was officiated by US Ambassador to Malaysia HE Ambassador Joseph Yun. His Excellency also witnessed the signing of an MOU between EcoHealth Alliance and Sabah Wildlife Department for the USAID-PREDICT Project.

HE Ambassador Yun mentioned, "The U.S. Government strongly supports the USAID-PREDICT project and its role in identifying threats to human health. The important job being done at the Wildlife Health, Genetic and Forensic Laboratory here in Lok Kawi strengthens public health work, advances scientific research and protects the economic health of the entire region."

The Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun who was also present for the official opening and the signing of the MOU commented, "We are here today to witness the fruition of the past two years' hard work by my officers in SWD and the experts from EHA and DGFC, as well as the beginning of a new journey in wildlife health management in Sabah. I would like to take this opportunity to convey my sincere gratitude to all the major funders: USAID, Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) through its Malaysian Palm Oil Wildlife Conservation Fund, Shangri-La's Rasa Ria Resort through its Wildlife Conservation Fund and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well as the primary initiators of this great work: Sabah Wildlife Department, EcoHealth Alliance and Danau Girang Field Centre," added Manjun.

Datuk Dr. Laurentius Ambu, Director of Sabah Wildlife Department commented, "This is indeed a proud day for Sabah Wildlife Department as it has always been our goal to set up a Laboratory to not only look into wildlife health and genetic research but also to assist our Wildlife Enforcement Division in analyzing the confiscated illegal bushmeat to determine species and origin, using genetic tools. Capacity building within my department has also been enhanced by the setting up of a new unit, the Wildlife Health Unit in collaboration with EcoHealth Alliance and DGFC, which is part of SWD's Wildlife Rescue Unit. While the WRU conducts wildlife rescue and translocation activities, the WHU will be responsible for leading the physical and diagnostic evaluation of rescued and relocated wildlife across the state as well as conducting sampling trips to trap and sample free ranging wildlife and assess wildlife in protected and unprotected areas," added Ambu.

Director of Danau Girang Field Centre, Dr. Benoit Goossens said, "It is a great honor to be part of this historic moment, after two years of hard work with Dr. Sen Nathan from SWD and Mr. Tom Hughes from EcoHealth Alliance, my two colleagues with whom we have shared sweat, tears and joy! Thanks to EcoHealth Alliance's support and the USAID Emerging Pandemic Threats (EPT) Program we have been able to set up this incredible tool which will allow us to carry out wildlife health work that will in return benefit conservation and land use planning for a better management of Sabah landscape, both agricultural and forest," added Goossens.

Dr. Peter Daszak, President of EcoHealth Alliance mentioned, "This laboratory represents a bold step forward in showing the linkage between conservation and health and demonstrating how collaborative partnerships can work so effectively for conservation, and for health. It is a success story for Sabah Wildlife Department, for the State and for the country of Malaysia, and will show the world how the new field of "EcoHealth" can benefit wildlife, ecosystems and public health."
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About EcoHealth Alliance

Building on over 40 years of groundbreaking science, EcoHealth Alliance is a global, nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting wildlife and safeguarding human health from the emergence of disease. The organization develops ways to combat the effects of damaged ecosystems on human and wildlife health. Using environmental and health data covering the past 60 years, EcoHealth Alliance scientists created the first-ever, global disease hotspots map that identified at-risk regions, to help predict and prevent the next pandemic crisis. That work is the foundation of EcoHealth Alliance's rigorous, science-based approach, focused at the intersection of the environment, health, and capacity building. Working in the U.S. and more than 20 countries worldwide, EcoHealth Alliance's strength is founded on innovations in research, training, global partnerships, and policy initiatives. For more information, http://www.ecohealthalliance.org/.

EcoHealth Alliance

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