Part 11: Buffalo Disease Risk Management
Part 11: Buffalo Disease Risk Management
African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) are iconic animals and part of the so-called Big Five.
Dr Trudie Prinsloo

Unfortunately, they are natural carriers of diseases that can be harmful to other animals, especially cattle. Farmers in South Africa may own and keep these magnificent animals, but only under specified conditions.

In this article we will look at the legal requirements imposed on buffalo owners in terms of the Animal Diseases Act, 1984 (Act 35 of 1984) and its Regulations.

The four key diseases

Private ownership and movement of buffalo are strictly controlled, as buffalo are carriers of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and Corridor disease. This means that while they do not show signs of these diseases, they can transmit them.

They are also susceptible to brucellosis and tuberculosis, which is usually only detected after a significant portion of the herd has already been infected. Buffalo herds in some of South Africa’s largest game parks have become infected with tuberculosis, with far-reaching consequences for these parks. While other controlled diseases can affect buffalo, they are of lesser importance.

Keeping buffalo

A farmer who wants to keep buffalo must first apply for the land (or a portion thereof ) to be registered through the responsible state veterinarian as stipulated in Regulation 20A. A minimum requirement is that the land must have proper fences for game, and therefore a fencing certificate from the relevant nature conservation authority is required. The certificate must state that it is appropriate for keeping buffalo.

Another important requirement, as stated in Regulation 20(8), is that buffalo and cattle may not be kept on the same land. Each application will be assessed on merit, and a certificate of registration will be issued if the national director of Animal Health is satisfied that all the conditions have been met and the keeping of buffalo on the relevant land will not pose a disease threat to the surrounding areas.


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April 2020