Tag Archives: Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

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: www.ECOLIFEFOUNDATION.org

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.

Quick, Call the Vet

Last week, CTPH trained about 30 Community Animal Health Workers (CAHWs) in and around Bwindi Impentrable National Park.  Many of the communities around the park have no veterinary officer or veterinary drug shop. Many of the farmers cannot afford the cost of the district veterinary officer travelling from district headquarters, a journey of 2 hours. With growing human populations interacting with livestock and wildlife, infectious disease is a very real threat in these communities. CTPH trains Community Animal Health Workers to bridge this gap, offering basic animal health services to their communities and referring harder cases to the district veterinary offices.CAHWs training

Challenges of Gorilla Health Monitoring

Healthy infant mountain gorilla in Bwindi

Greetings, I am sorry that we have not been updating our blog; we have had a hectic few weeks of field activities and workshops in Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH), not leaving enough time to post some blogs on Wildlife Direct. We hope to improve on this significantly, and plan to post blogs more regularly over the next few weeks.

I will start off by reporting on a case we had to deal with in our Wildlife Health Monitoring Program. On 5th May 2009 during routine visits to the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park office, CTPH Wildlife Health Technician, Hilary Kumanya was informed by Edwin Kagoda, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park Senior Warden-in-Charge of Monitoring and Research, that an adult female gorilla in Habinyanja tourist group was carrying a dead infant gorilla on her back. On 6th May 2009, Hilary mobilised a team from CTPH and went with Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) staff to keep track of the gorilla mother before she dropped her infant, we all feared that the body would get lost in the dense impenetrable forest. During the tourist visit, they realised that the female gorilla was no longer carrying her baby.

While the UWA ranger guide was hosting tourists, Hilary and CTPH Population, Health and Environment (PHE) Field Assistant, Alex Ngabirano went with UWA trackers, Geoffrey Kikoko and David Ujara, to search for the infant’s body. Luckily Geoffrey was able to find the body in the dense undergrowth of the forest on a trail about 100 metres from where the group was feeding and resting that day.

The gorilla health monitoring team led by Hilary, carried the infant’s body to the CTPH Gorilla Research Clinic in Bwindi, and performed the post-mortem examination. The necropsy revealed that the infant female gorilla most likely died from trauma after a fall, with the only significant sign being bleeding in the thoracic cavity. Samples were taken to Makerere University Faculty of Veterinary Medicine for histopathology and unfortunately because the body was too decomposed, the pathologists were not able to gain enough information on the cause of death or infant’s health status at the time of death.

Though the team was able to retrieve the body within one day from when the mother dropped it, the infant gorilla had already been dead for two days (estimated date of death 4th May 2009), and the body had started to autolyse.  It is not unusual for gorilla mothers to hold onto their babies for a few days after they have died. This case represents the challenges faced with getting a good gorilla post-mortem under warm and humid tropical rain forest conditions.

Please look out for our next update, which will be from our integrated Human Public Health Program!

Conserving Gorillas in Uganda.

Whitley Awards Prize Winner

Greetings, I am very excited to have the opportunity to blog on Wildlife Direct and be able to tell you about the work we are doing in Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH). Conservation Through Public Health is a grassroots NGO and US registered non-profit founded in December 2002 with a mission to promote conservation and public health by improving primary health care to people and animals in and around protected areas in Africa. Our vision is to prevent and control disease transmission where wildlife, people and their animals meet while cultivating a winning attitude to conservation and public health in local communities.

We started our first program in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, home to half of the world’s estimated 760 critically endangered mountain gorillas. While working as veterinary officer for Uganda Wildlife Authority in 1996 I led a team that investigated the first scabies skin disease outbreak in this extremely fragile population of mountain gorillas resulting in the death of an infant, that was traced to people living around the park who have very little basic modern health care and information on preventable zoonotic diseases. This made us realise that you cannot maintain the health of wildlife without taking into consideration the health and livelihoods of the people who they share a habitat with, particularly if they are closely genetically related such as people and great apes who share more than 98% genetic material.

We work closely with partners from different sectors including Uganda Wildlife Authority, Ministry of Health, Kanungu District local government, surrounding communities, NGOs, corporates and our donors to implement three integrated programs: Wildlife Health Monitoring, Human Public Health and Information Education and Communication.  In this blog we will mainly be reporting the work that we are doing in the Wildlife Health Monitoring and Human Public Health programs. Wildlife Direct has very generously allowed us to have a second blog to report the work we are doing in the Information Education and Communication program, which revolves around establishing multipurpose community telecentres for protected area communities to be able to learn how to use internet to improve their livelihoods, while learning how sustaining their livelihoods depends on healthy people, healthy wildlife, healthy ecosystems and sustainable ecotourism. We are looking forward to sharing with you our experiences, challenges and needs to continue this important work.

I would like to greatly thank everyone who has supported us so far, we would not have got this far without your encouragement and support. Last month was a very exciting month for Conservation Through Public Health. On 13th May 2009, Her Royal Highness Princess Anne presented me with the Whitley Gold Award for our work in Bwindi, this is a highly prestigious award given to grassroots nature conservationists making a real impact where they are working. We will use the funds from the award to better measure the conservation impact of our integrated public health and wildlife health monitoring work in Conservation Through Public Health. For more information please visit our website Conservation Through Public Health.