Serengeti Health Initiative (2006-2018)
By vaccinating domestic dogs against diseases such as rabies and canine distemper, Lincoln Park Zoo and its partners have helped make the Serengeti ecosystem healthier for people and wildlife.
Wildlife surveys have identified domestic dogs as a major source for rabies and canine distemper outbreaks that have historically devastated the Serengeti’s lions and African wild dogs. To safeguard these predators, as well as local people and pets, Lincoln Park Zoo collaborated with partners to vaccinate domestic dogs against rabies and distemper.
Since it began in 2003, the vaccination project has become woven into the culture of the region and vaccinated more than 1 million dogs. People are happy to participate, bringing their pets long distances to be vaccinated.
With support from the zoo and its partners, Tanzanian veterinarians and field staff regularly inoculate dogs in villages bordering the park. The team works to hold vaccination campaigns in more than 200 village bordering the Serengeti ecosystem, vaccinating 45,000-50,000 domestic dogs each year. This effort has resulted in significantly fewer cases of rabies and distemper, and helped to improve the capacity for disease monitoring to be able to detect outbreaks more quickly.
In 2018, Lincoln Park Zoo handed over the reins of the Serengeti Health Initiative program to Washington State University as part of an effort to transition the initiative to a sustainable, Tanzanian-run effort. Lincoln Park Zoo is grateful for the hard work and dedication of the vaccination team, and proud of the impact the project has made with zoo support for over a decade.