Diseases transmitted between wildlife and livestock may have significant impacts on local farmers’ health, livestock health and productivity, overall national economies, and conservation initiatives, such as Transfrontier Conservation Areas in Southern Africa. However, little is known on local farmers’ awareness of the potential risks, and how they perceive the role played by wildlife in the epidemiology of these diseases.
We investigated the knowledge base regarding livestock diseases of local cattle owners living at the periphery of conservation areas within the Great Limpopo TFCA and the Kavango-Zambezi TFCA in Zimbabwe, using free-listing and semi-structured questionnaires during dipping sessions. The results suggest that information related to cattle diseases circulates widely between cattle farmers, including between different socio-cultural groups, using English and vernacular languages. Most respondents had an accurate perception of the epidemiology of diseases affecting their livestock, and their perception of the potential role played by wildlife species was usually in agreement with current state of veterinary knowledge. However, we found significant variations in the cultural importance of livestock diseases between sites, and owners’ perceptions were not directly related with the local abundance of wildlife. As the establishment of TFCAs will potentially increase the risk of Transboundary Animal Diseases, we recommend an increased participation of communities at a local level in the prioritisation of livestock diseases control and surveillance, including zoonoses.