The Test and Vaccinate or Remove (TVR) Wildlife Intervention Research Project is to start today, June 19, in a 100km² area around Banbridge, Co. Down.

Announced by the Department of Agriculture, Environment, and Rural Affairs (DAERA), the research project is now in its fourth year. It seeks to monitor the effects of implementing a TVR approach to badgers in a region with a high prevalence of bovine TB.

The project should help to fill gaps in the knowledge of the department in this area and answer currently unknown information on badgers, specifically in terms of the disease.

Similar to the last two studies, this year will involve the capture of badgers and sampling, micro-chipping and vaccinating them against bovine TB, with the removal of animals testing positive for the infection.

Year three of the programme finished in October 2016, during which badgers were captured 586 times. These comprised 271 “unique” badgers as well as 315 re-captured badgers – those that were caught more than once.

The global issues surrounding the production of the BCG (Bacillus Calmette–Guerin) vaccine meant that the strain of badger BCG vaccine used during the first three years of the project is not available. The department instead obtained a supply of human BCG vaccine (BCG Sofia strain) for project use, which is the same as the vaccine currently in use in the Republic of Ireland for its badger vaccination programmes.

DAERA officials are currently organising a stakeholder event for farmers in the TVR area to update them on the project as fieldwork commencement approaches.