Hunters’ Acceptance of Measures against African Swine Fever in Wild Boar in Estonia
African swine fever (ASF) was first identified in Estonia in 2014, initially detected in wild boar and spreading to affect almost the whole country from late 2016 onwards. Passive surveillance and the control measures applied in Estonia are the main actions in the attempt to control the wild boar population and therefore limit the spread of ASF. Implementation and success of both activities depends mainly on the involvement and commitment of the executing force: the Estonian hunters. Thus, their acceptance of the measures is of utmost importance and with the help of participatory methods, their acceptability can be assessed. Participatory epidemiology allows the involvement of key stakeholders in planning control measures and surveillance strategies and gathering information otherwise inaccessible. By conducting focus group discussions and utilizing participatory tools, this study aimed to assess the acceptance of ASF control measures by hunters in Estonia. Furthermore, the study aimed to detect means to improve the motivation of hunters to support passive surveillance. Among hunters, the results ranked the trust in lower authorities (e.g. local official veterinarians) towards implementing control measures as high (in contrast to higher officials e.g. ‘Ministry of Rural Affairs’), while perceiving themselves as the most trustworthy group among those implementing ASF control measures. Hunting and every measure supporting increased hunting, for example selective hunting, bait feeding and incentives for hunting wild boar, were deemed favourable for hunters. These measures also received the highest trust for controlling ASF. All measures hindering hunting and the movement of wildlife, for example fencing or involvement of the army in ASF control, were described as unpleasant or even unethical and trust in these measures to control the disease successfully was lacking. When assessing the perceived consequences for hunters of finding a dead wild boar, arising financial costs, additional workload and time consumption were highlighted. In line with these results, the two tools with the strongest motivational effect for taking part in passive surveillance were: (1) higher monetary incentives as compensation for the hunters’ work, and (2) the reduction of the negative consequences by limiting the hunters’ duties to solely reporting found dead wild boar. In conclusion, participatory methods can be used as a highly suitable tool for the evaluation of acceptance of measures and surveillance systems. Potentially, the results can help to improve control and passive surveillance in Estonia, as well as functioning as an example for other countries battling or awaiting ASF.