By Agaba Hillary Kumanya
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP), a UNESCO world heritage site in south-western Uganda is habitat to an estimated half of the world’s population of the critically endangered mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) with cross species disease transmission between gorillas, people and livestock being one of the most significant threats.
A livestock farm set right away at the forest edge.
Around BINP is one of the highest human population densities in Africa. Consequently, there is 1) increased sharing of natural resources including land and water between mountain gorillas, livestock and humans, and 2) a hard edge between the park boundary and the community with animals often grazed to the edge of the park. Inevitably, implications in terms of disease transmission for the rich biodiversity of BINP and to public health for the local communities exist.
Human public health interventions around Bwindi have been enormous but there has been some disregard to livestock health.
Nevertheless, the importance of livestock health to mountain gorilla conservation and public health around Bwindi is clear – for example the presence of pathogens, such as Cryptosporidia and Giardia in livestock as well as in humans and mountain gorillas recognizes and calls for the “One Health” approach. Livestock as a major livelihood source can also impact significantly on natural resource conservation.
Sedentary and communal livestock keeping common around Bwindi may spread livestock diseases
This project supported by Cleveland Zoo, USA seeks to generate information and effective strategies for improving local community livestock husbandry practices that enable risk reduction of disease spread between livestock and gorillas and people.
- Hazy picture taken at a range of a livestock kraal in a valley bottom that may be a source of water and environmental contamination
There is a great need to establish sustainable and financially viable environmentally friendly herd health programs around BINP and to address several issues regarding livestock health such as setting up water quality protection, prevention and control of chronic zoonotic diseases such as TB and brucellosis, and understanding current livestock keeping practices around BINP, which will help design and advance conservation and environmentally sustainable livestock husbandry practices.
The outcomes will enable Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH) to design strategies for educating and sensitizing local communities. CTPH, a US registered charity and Ugandan NGO, is promoting gorilla conservation by enabling people, wildlife and livestock to co-exist through improving primary health care to people and animals in and around Africa’s protected areas.
- Most lands immediate to the park are used for grazing and pasture