Biosecurity at the SAFE Project
The SAFE Project attracts researchers from many disciplines around the world, many of whom will have conducted other research in areas harbouring wildlife diseases that are not yet present in Borneo and/or the SAFE Project study area. There is no shortage of harmful diseases that could be introduced, ranging from chytridiomycosis on amphibians to white nose fungus on bats. It is our intention to minimise the risk that researchers pose to wildlife in the area, by requesting all visitors to the area follow these basic biosecurity protocols. Research equipment and footwear are the two biggest culprits, so pay particular attention to them.
Importantly, these are all actions you should take before entering Borneo. You should also take them when leaving Borneo and entering new field sites elsewhere in the world.
Look for any signs of dirt or organic material attached to any of your clothes or equipment. Ideally, this should be done at the site of your last fieldwork, where you can remove and leave any material behind. Use a brush to scrub off any debris, plant fragments, mud etc, and rinse with water.
Scrub and disinfect all items of equipment, footwear and clothing. Virkon is an excellent disinfectant for this as it is active against most potential pathogens, yet is biodegradable and non-corrosive. It is important that these items are cleaned before being disinfected as organic material (e.g. mud) rapidly deactivates disinfectants. Suitable options for disinfecting are:
- Soak in a bleach solution (1 measure of household bleach to 9 measures water) for 15 minutes; OR
- Virkon (10 mg/ml, as per suppliers instructions) for 1 minute; OR
- Fabrics, including clothing and fieldwork equipment such as nets, can be washed on a 40°C cycle (with detergent, ensuring sufficient rinsing). Nets should be boiled for 10 minutes or if the fabric allows disinfected with spray bleach.
All equipment, footwear and clothing should then be thoroughly dried before arriving. All items must be completely dry to the touch, inside and out, and then left an additional 48 hours before bringing them to the study site.
Keep field gear (traps, net frames etc) inside plastic bags during transit and storage to reduce the chance of transmitting propagules.
Footwear is the most obvious route for invasion, so pay particular attention to that. Many researchers wear locally made ‘Adidas Kampung’ shoes in the field, which are something like rubber football boots, have excellent grip in the forest and can be bought very cheaply in town. You might consider buying a pair of these solely for using at the SAFE Project, rather than importing your footwear used at other sites.
If cleaning and drying is not practical, then you should restrict the use of that equipment or clothing to SAFE Project study sites alone.
All clothing you bring to the site should be freshly laundered. Clothes you wear to the site should be kept in sealed plastic bags and taken off site on departure.