Category Archives: Conservation

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: