Author Archives: conservationthroughpublichealth

My name is Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka. I am a wildlife vet from Uganda working to save the mountain gorillas by improving the health of people.

Bwindi gorillas get a new Laboratory technician

Stephen Rubanga introducing Innocent Turyasingura to the lab work

CTPH Gorilla Research clinic has employed another staff called Turyasingura Innocent. He has worked with different organizations including the Uganda government. His experience will add to the health of the endangered mountain gorillas of Bwindi Impenetrable National park.

Can traditional and western medicine co-exist?

By Madeleine Finney-Brown

I was recently given the opportunity to meet with a traditional healer in the village of Mukono. As a medical student, I was interested to hear about how he diagnosed his patients, and what treatments he used. I was also keen to find out about his opinion of western medicine, particularly (as relevant to the work of CTPH) regarding contraception.

the Traditional Healer

Upon arriving at the traditional healer’s home, we were warmly welcomed and shown to a building where he sees his patients and keeps his medicines. I was surprised to learn that many of his examination and diagnostic techniques were not so different from my own! giving an immunisation to an infant in the Batwa village

Although I didn’t recognize most of the plants he showed us, I wondered if many were infact ingredients in the medicines we use, as I know many western medications contain natural products. My concern with the traditional healer’s herbs is not their effectiveness, but their potency (amount required to produce an effect of given intensity), as quantities are much more difficult to regulate.


When asked about contraceptive, the old man replied that he had two traditional methods, but that these days he more commonly recommended conventional contraceptives- referring women to his wife (who is, in-fact, a CTPH CCHV), and speaking with the men himself.

MPH students Stella and Cait with Stephen in the lab

All-in-all, it was a very interesting visit, and I certainly feel there is a role for traditional healers. I feel that traditional and western medicine should be collaborative, and I certainly will carry this idea forth into my future practice as a doctor.





Joseph asking the survey questions to a woman from Kishanda in Bujengwe parish


Family planning for women could help save mountain gorillas –

By Kenneth R. Weiss, Los Angeles Times

July 22, 2012

BUHOMA, Uganda — As a wildlife veterinarian for the Ugandan government, Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka had dedicated her life to saving the mountain gorilla.

She came to realize that if these rare great apes were to survive, she would need to focus on a much more plentiful species: humans.

More than a third of the world’s remaining 786 mountain gorillas live in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, on steep hillsides in the cool cloud forests of southwestern Uganda. The gorillas in the mist, made popular by the late American zoologist Dian Fossey, generate millions of tourist dollars for the poor East African nation.

Visitors from all over the world pay $500 to tramp through the jungle for miles to watch shy mother gorillas cradle their young, juveniles somersault through the leafy understory and chest-beating males strut about on their knuckles.

Years ago, Kalema-Zikusoka noticed something strange: The great apes were coming down with human illnesses.

At least three died of measles. Dozens had to be immunized against the disease, which was racing through nearby villages.

Then some contracted scabies, a skin mite disease common among the poor farmers who live along the park’s boundary. The gorillas probably picked it up from discarded clothes, victims of their own curiosity. The sickest ones lost much of the shaggy black hair that keeps them warm. One badly infested baby whimpered helplessly until he died of pneumonia.

Watching the mother drag around her dying baby, Kalema-Zikusoka felt powerless. So she quit her government job to co-found a nonprofit group, Conservation Through Public Health. Its mission: to reduce transmission of diseases between humans and gorillas, in part by improving healthcare for people living near the park.

She also became a passionate advocate for family planning.

“It’s not enough just to set aside land to protect the wildlife,” Kalema-Zikusoka said. “If we can reduce population pressure and population growth, the gorillas will have a brighter future.”

It turns out that parks and wildlife reserves are magnets for people, attracted by park or tourism jobs and improved roads, schools and clinics. Populations around park borders are growing nearly twice as fast as other rural areas in dozens of African and Latin American countries, UC Berkeley researchers found.

Such growth brings exactly what conservationists had hoped to prevent: more wildlife poaching and deforestation.

“You have to be well-fed and secure to be a conservationist,” said Richard Leakey, a Kenyan anthropologist.

Uganda’s population of 36 million, one of the world’s fastest-growing, is expected to triple by midcentury. The country’s southwestern corner is among the most densely populated rural areas in Africa.

Women living near the Bwindi park have an average of 10 children each, Kalema-Zikusoka said. Villages filled with shoeless children have popped up on the misty hillsides. A quilt of subsistence farms lines the edge of the forest.

The boundary between the cultivated and the wild is traversed daily by both gorillas and humans.

Man and nature are in constant contact — and conflict.

“This whole place was banana trees, and the gorillas destroyed them all,” complained Christopher Sunday, standing guard in tall rubber boots over the crops that feed his 12 children. Just then, a pair of women emerged from the forest, balancing on their heads large loads of scavenged firewood.

Kalema-Zikusoka has helped open family planning clinics in homes around the park. In one of the mud-brick dwellings, Monica Tusisimukye slid a needle into a neighbor’s shoulder, injecting the contraceptive Depo-Provera deep into the muscle.

The woman didn’t flinch. She already had six children. She said she wanted to stop because she didn’t have the strength to dig a bigger garden out of the jungle.

Women who visited the clinic that day said they hadn’t realized they could easily control whether they got pregnant until Tusisimukye returned from a workshop with vials of Depo-Provera, which prevents ovulation. Word spread to other villages, where women want clinics of their own.

“Family planning is a very good way of reducing poverty,” Kalema-Zikusoka said. “When you reduce poverty, you reduce pressure on the forests.”

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A scientific study on a fact finding mission on what CTPH does on the ground by Makerere University students

Makerere University is a leading Institution of higher learning in Uganda. Students doing Masters in IDM and their lecturers came for a two day scientific study on a fact finding mission on what CTPH does on the ground. The students and lecturers were joined by among others from CTPH, Stephen Rubanga a founder and Program Officer, Animal Health Technical, David Matsiko Field Office Manager and Alex Ngabirano PHE Field Assistant. The Makerere University Lecturers were Dr. Sam Mujalija, Dr. Kazoora Herbert Brian and seven students.

Mzee Gongo on the water source

Stephen gave a presentation and over view of CTPH activities and stated the mission and Vision of CTPH. In Stephen’s presentation, he talked about why and when CTPH was founded singling out Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka who was working as a veterinary doctor before she founded CTPH as a hard working and visionary person.
The team had a visit to the park offices. Olivia Biira (Warden Community Bwindi Impenetrable National Park) gave a presentation to the team.

Olivia Biira explaining how CTPH works with UWA

In her presentation she talked about CTPH partnership with Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and how CTPH addresses the problem of disease transmission between people wildlife and livestock, creates awareness among the people living around the park and how it is controlling population pressure by practicing family planning around the park. She thanked CTPH for collecting and analyzing gorilla feacal samples and training rangers on sample collection. She also thanked CTPH for giving out livestock to the volunteers which is improving community livelihoods. The students were very happy to hear this.
The team visited Bahati Daudi. Bahati Daudi demonstrate using a flip chart

Bahati is a Community Conservation Health Volunteer from Kanyashande village in Mukono parish. Bahati demonstrated using CTPH flip charts how he teaches the community. He used the model of the bad and good family. In addition, Bahati demonstrates how he teaches people to put on condoms by using the carved mode
The team went to Bujengwe parish.

Hope Matsiko giving out an injection to the client

We first visited the home of Hope Matsiko where she demonstrated to the team how she administers family planning methods using Depo-Provera and how she refers those with side effects and those who want long term and permanent methods. The visiting team was very happy for this visit.

Stephen Rubanga explain how the livestock project for the volunteers started and its importance

Dog vaccination in Iraaro village

Today we a team from Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH) comprising of Stephen Rubanga, David Matsiko, Kityo Emmanuel and Alex Nabirano went to Iraaro to do dog vaccination with Dr. Lynn Murrel. 26 dogs were vaccinated against rabbies a zoonotic disease that can be harmful to human beings and wildlife especially the gorillas. Well done the team!DSCN0095

Volunteering at CTPH has been one of the most rewarding and exciting experiences

I began working with CTPH in September 2011, as a marketing and development volunteer through the American Jewish World Service Volunteer Corps program. Before moving to Uganda I worked in international development in the US for about 2 years before finally making it to the African continent, and being here has by far surpassed my expectations. Volunteering at CTPH has been one of the most rewarding and exciting experiences I’ve ever had, and has made me more likely than ever to want to continue working on international issues.

1Gorilla research clinic new site

The work I’ve done for CTPH has been both interesting and dynamic. I was fortunate enough to come at a time when CTPH was considering its long-term strategic goals, and was able to support staff in their process of deciding where the organization wants to be in a year, three years, five years, and so on. Since then I’ve run a grant-writing workshop for CTPH staff, worked to improve our online presence by creating a Flickr and Twitter account, drafted brochures and newsletters, assisted in writing grants, worked on content for our new website (which we will be launching soon!), and helped out with the annual report and other donor-documents. I’ve been able to sit in on a number of meetings with partner organizations and stakeholders, as well as contribute some ideas on how to improve operations and grow CTPH’s model. I feel so fortunate to have been able to participate in such a meaningful way.

One of the most unusual and exciting aspects of CTPH is its ability to integrate numerous programs and approaches across sectors: whether working to achieve biodiversity conservation in some of Africa’s most beautiful protected areas through improving public health for some of the poorest people on the content; improving people’s livelihoods to decrease their dependency on tourism; or working to blend nonprofit-type philanthropy with innovative business practices, CTPH does a little bit of almost everything without diffusing its overall goals.

Daniela and Sam, a community conservation health volunteer at the village aquaponics projec

The village aquaponics project

Part of what drew me to accept a placement at CTPH was its unique mission: control the spread of diseases between humans, wildlife and livestock, thus conserving natural resources and biodiversity while simultaneously improving health for very poor, rural communities. In November I was fortunate enough to visit both Queen Elizabeth National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Forest, two of the areas where we work, to observe a family-planning training for our network of community health volunteers. Although I was already impressed by CTPH’s integrated health and conservation model, seeing their program in action gave me whole new insights into the success of their programs. I got to observe two days of training for community conservation health volunteers in Buhoma District near Bwindi, and it was both impressive and moving to see this large network of people working together to improve conditions for their communities.

On my trip, I also got to visit our gorilla health research clinic, the village Aquaponics project and the site for our new Gorilla Conservation Camp and Gorilla Health Center.

Working with the dedicated CTPH staff has also been an amazing experience. Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka is an inspiring mentor and leader, and it’s clear she has been head of the pack when it comes to combining conservation and development. I’m also continually impressed by the high quality of work that my colleagues and co-worker produce and have gained an enormous amount of knowledge from them both about the institutional structures in Uganda and about the sectors of conservation and public health specifically.

Community Conservation Health volunteer training on family planning in Kisoro districtKisoro volunteers receiving training on family planning

Beyond the enormous professional and intellectual opportunities accorded me in my time at CTPH, I feel a profound gratitude at having had a chance to live in this beautiful country and interact with its amazing people. I will miss Uganda and CTPH and hope that they are able to continue their impressive work for years to come!

Aquaponics at CTPH

ECOLIFE Foundation has been collaborating with Conservation Through Public Health for the last six months. At the CTPH field station in Bwindi, Uganda we have created an Aquaponics system right next to the critically endangered mountain gorillas.

CTPH Staff participating in  the building of the acquaponics project in Bwindi

CTPH Staff participating in the building of the acquaponics project in Bwindi

Aquaponics is the symbiotic growing of plants and aquatic animals in a re-circulating environment. It combines vegetable and fish farming. Water is cycled with a water pump run by solar electricity between fish tanks and vegetable growing areas. Fish waste acts as a natural fertilizer for the crops. Plants and beneficial bacteria scrub ammonia and other nitrogenous compounds from the water, making it safe for the fish.The CTPH Aquaponics system will serve as a self-sustaining prototype and model to aid capacity building in the region. As Aquaponics provides an easily manageable means of producing additional sources of income and protein, and systems can be reproduced in all shapes and sizes, we hope these will be replicated throughout the district. In additional to increasing income and protein, it also reduces the human impact on our environment. Aquaponics lessens pressure on wildlife, whether it be the bush meat trade or over-fishing, it also replicates natural systems such as lakes and rivers, creating a near zero impact method of food production. It uses no soil for growing and once the initial building is done the only input is food for the fish.

Replicating the module to Uganda

Replicating the model to Uganda

For more information on Aquaponics please visit:

Disease Transmission Risks Tourists Pose The Mountain Gorillas of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda

By Allison Hanes

I first heard about Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH) while working as a veterinary technician at Fifth Avenue Veterinary Specialists in Manhattan. One of the internists had interviewed someone with work experience at CTPH and told me to check it out. I was very much interested in conservation, primates, and healthcare development work so I did my research and kept it in mind. Two years later in the first weeks of my MSc course in Primate Conservation at Oxford Brookes University I was speaking with my supervisor Dr. Catherine Hill and I told her that I was interested in sustainable development and conservation medicine. Conservation medicine is the health interface between people, animals (both wild and domestic), and the environment. She immediately directed me again to CTPH and CEO/founder Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka in Uganda. There was a reason that this NGO was pointed out to me several times. We share the same values and mission. The CTPH mission is to conserve wildlife by improving the primary healthcare of people in and around protected areas in Africa. I feel passionately about all people having a basic right to primary healthcare and safe drinking water and that the health of people and animals living near one another is interconnected. I think that in order to achieve good conservation you must work with the local people and allow them access to basic necessities and the health of the whole ecosystem depends on it. It is very hard to protect endangered species without addressing the problems within the region. I am particularly interested in primary healthcare and clean drinking water development projects, conservation, conservation medicine, veterinary medicine, ecotourism, and primates. I have done a lot of research and I don’t think there is another organization out there that aligns so well with my interests. So when my supervisor gave me Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka’s contact information, I sent her a list of potential MSc thesis projects immediately. We conversed for months through email and I am now here in Uganda doing a study on the disease transmission risks that tourists pose the mountain gorillas of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

Forest edge of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda.

Forest edge of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda.

I arrived in Kampala about three weeks ago. I was in the capital for two weeks, much longer than expected for research permits. However, when I arrived here they told me I received clearance fairly quickly. To make up time spent in the capital I began my pilot study immediately.
My study has three main activities. They are to distribute questionnaires to tourists, conduct interviews with tourists after their treks, and collect saliva samples from tourists, Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) staff, and vegetation of three habituated tourist groups of mountain gorillas at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP).

Briefing and collecting saliva swabs from Uganda Wildlife Authority guides and trackers Sunday, Albert, and David.

Briefing and collecting saliva swabs from Uganda Wildlife Authority guides and trackers Sunday, Albert, and David.

I am also interviewing locals and staff for a greater understanding and to possibly put together a documentary for CTPH, UWA and/or myself. I am working every day and making good progress. I have finished my pilot study and soon need to draft my final interview questions and questionnaire. I aim to complete a sample size of 25 formal interviews and 250 questionnaires.

I have collected about a quarter of my projected 75 saliva samples. The toughest and most time consuming feat will be to track gorillas, identify them, and reliably collect fresh gorilla saliva. Especially since some of the groups are a round trip hike of eight hours up into the mountains and in my first trek I collected one trustworthy sample. However, I have only been working one full week and a lot of that time was spent meeting and briefing UWA staff, lodge staff, and locals about my research plans. Now I know a great deal of the people in both Buhoma and Bwindi and I have a schedule to move things along quicker.

CTPH community volunteer meeting that included discussions on washing household utensils, contraception, and the ECOLIFE Aquaponics project.

CTPH community volunteer meeting that included discussions on washing household utensils, contraception, and the ECOLIFE Aquaponics project.

I normally wake up at 6:00am, arrive at the briefing area at 7:15am to depart on an advanced trek, return with samples, brief staff and tourists on my research and answer questions, distribute questionnaires to tourists, request interviews and swabs from UWA staff and tourists, and return to lodges to interview tourists. I often don’t get home until dark after dinner via boda boda and I am very tired.
Nonetheless, I am enjoying every moment of this experience. It is rewarding to know that UWA and CTPH find this information helpful and practical. Plus I get to enjoy the gorillas while fulfilling my MSc dissertation requirements. I hope to make a large contribution to organizations, the gorillas, and local people.

Young girl at orphanage organizing the artwork sold to tourists after their daily 5pm dance performance

Young girl at orphanage organizing the artwork sold to tourists after their daily 5pm dance performance

I will be here for about one more month, a total of only nine weeks. I am very grateful and happy to be here. I am honored to work for such an amazing organization. Thank you CTPH for having me!

Rushegura group Kibande baby checking out tourists while climbing tree.

Rushegura group Kibande baby checking out tourists while climbing tree.

Cleveland Zoo Promotes Livestock Health for Mountain Gorilla Conservation

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.

Most lands immediate to the park are used for grazing and pasture

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.

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.

A livestock farm set right away at the forest edgeHazy 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 pastureMost lands immediate to the park are used for grazing and pasture

A student’s conservation efforts in Uganda

Melinda Hershey, a fourth-year health education undergraduate student, is spending her final quarter at UC interninguganda2 in Uganda with an organization called Conservation Through Public Health. During her ten weeks in Uganda, Melinda will conduct sanitation and family planning surveys throughout the Bwindi area, and develop materials to complement these efforts.

She is primarily working with the Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH) group located at a camp in Bwindi, meeting members of the community and working with them on issues that affect public health and population, like sanitation and family planning.

CPTH began as a conservation effort aimed to protect the world’s largest population of mountain gorillas in the Ugandan region. When it became clear that this area, also one of the most impoverished nations in the world, was experiencing the transmission of deadly diseases between animals and humans, the focus turned to improving public health and hygiene. They soon saw the benefits not only to the region’s population, but also to protect a sustainable source of income from gorilla tourism.

Melinda has already reported back to her UC professors this summer with a wealth of interesting experiences. “I traveled to Queen Elizabeth National Park to participate in a fact-finding mission about an Anthrax outbreak among hippos. This is a huge problem because there are not enough resources to dispose of the hippos, therefore causing a threat to the local human population as well.”

Melinda’s fieldwork began in July in the Mukono district, visiting the homes of community members. “I checked several elements of hygiene within their homes (latrines, showers, water storage) and also spoke to them about family planning. They speak a local language (Rukiga) so I had a translator with me to interpret,” says Melinda. She has also visited two schools to speak with them about hygiene and family planning issues. “This community has an overwhelming need for better hygiene and sanitation education and resources, and they still have a lot to learn about appropriate methods of family planning. Hopefully we will be able to gather some good data to make a case for funding more endeavors.”

Melinda also noted that she had the opportunity to meet a local medicine man and see his office. She also witnessed the making of banana gin, called Waragi, being made while she was out and about in the community.

Aside from learning about Uganda’s health, Melinda hopes to absorb as much of the unique culture as possible. You can learn more about the mission of Conservation Through Public Health at