Estonia to apply for African swine fever-free status

Wild boar in Muhu.
Wild boar in Muhu. Source: Kalmer Saar/

As the last wild boar infected with African swine fever (ASF) was found in Estonia in 2019, Estonia will soon be able to apply for ASF-free status from the European Commission. This status would repeal all restrictions on the trade of pigs and pig meat currently in force.

Maarja Kristian, an adviser at the Animal Health and Welfare Department of the Veterinary and Food Board (VTA), told ERR that prior to the ASF outbreak, there were some 30,000-40,000 wild boar in Estonia; their number has since dwindled to 4,000-5,000.

"Considering the current sitation, it may soon be possible for Estonia to apply for ASF-free status from the European Commission for wild boar as well," Kristian said. "As a result, all ASF-induced restrictions currently in place on pig and pig meat trading would be lifted."

Estonia's domestic pig population was officially declared ASF-free as of this year, she added.

Kristjan explained that they are currently waiting to apply for ASF-free status, and may do so this fall or toward the end of the year.

"The fact that the last positive wild boar was found in Estonia in February 2019 means that circulation of the virus is extremely low or nonexistent," she said. "But we need to wait a bit before we can apply. Right now they have found boar with ASF antibodies."

According to the VTA official, the relaxing of restrictions would mean that the process for transporting live pigs and pig meat to other EU member states would be relaxed, and, for example, not include so much paperwork.

There have also been signs recently of an increase in wild boar numbers, and homeowners that live near forests are even starting to run into problems with the animals. Hunters, however, are not allowed to shoot wild boar grazing in people's backyards.

Kristian noted that special permits are required for hunters to hunt boar.

"Based on data received from hunters, the Environment Agency determines how many of each kind of boar can be hunted by county," she explained, noting that these figures are divided into sows, male boars and adolescents, and that these quotas are used to help exercise population control.

Wild boar populations must be kept under control in order to stop ASF from spreading to domestic pig farms. According to VTA figures, €10 million has been spent on fighting ASF in Estonia, and a total of 42,583 domestic pigs died or were killed in the process.

The ASF outbreak in Estonia peaked in 2015-2017.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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