Jul 7, 2020

Gorilla Guardians of Bwindi, Uganda Report, June 2020

Dr Gladys demonstrating how to use a thermometer
Dr Gladys demonstrating how to use a thermometer

The last report was posted on March 6th 2020.

To date we have raised $2,100 from 16 donors since the start of the project. Two of the donors are monthly recurring donors.

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH) set out a COVID-19 preparedness plan to train all Gorilla Guardians on how to manage and prevent COVID-19 spread amongst people and from humans to gorillas. 

On 24th March 2019, we started out with training park staff including wardens, head rangers and head trackers at all the tourism trekking sites of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. This training was done in partnership with Uganda Wildlife Authority, Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, Bwindi Community Hospital, International Gorilla Conservation Programme, Max Planck Institute and the Uganda Ministry of Health. The training was requested by the Uganda Wildlife Authority and included sharing guidelines on the following measures to prevent spread of COVID-19:

1. Every person visiting the gorillas, including park staff, tourists and researchers must have their temperature tested using non-contact infrared thermometers before setting off for gorilla trekking

2. Mandatory wearing of face masks by every person visiting the gorillas including park staff, tourists and researchers while viewing gorillas

3. Park staff, tourists and researchers with signs of illness, flu or cough should not be allowed to go to the forest.

4. Mandatory hand washing using soap, water and disinfectant before trekking.

5. The rule of viewing gorillas at a minimum distance of 7 meters at all times was re- emphasized. 

Although tourism was suspended in Uganda’s protected areas the day after the trainings took place, and this was followed by travel restrictions and social distancing guidelines, the trainings and agreed protocols will be very important when Uganda does open up again to tourism, ensuring all those concerned are ready and prepared to handle primate tourism safely in order to prevent COVID-19 transmission between people and from people to the endangered mountain gorillas. In addition, the guidelines continue to apply to rangers and others who have to access the forest to check on the health and safety of the gorillas and other wildlife in the forest.

CTPH conducted another series of COVID-19 prevention and mitigation trainings between 24th April and 26th May 2020, in partnership with Arcus Foundation and Solidaridad. At that time, travel for non-essential vehicles was prohibited. However, CTPH, considered essential due to its work in One Health interventions and in the prevention of zoonotic disease transmission, was given a sticker from the Ministry of Health to continue operating, in line with guidelines set out by the Government of Uganda. CTPH was granted permission from Kanungu District Local Government to train Village Health and Conservation Teams (VHCTs) who are community volunteers providing health and conservation information and services at the community and household level and Gorilla Guardians who are Human and Gorilla Conflict Resolution Teams who safely herd gorillas back to the park when they range on community land. The trainings were conducted whilst observing social distancing of two meters between people. When sensitizing the VHCTs, we engaged with 10 individuals per day (5 in the morning and 5 in the afternoon), finding them in their villages to ensure all COVID-19 prevention protocols were observed. All the 256 VHCTs and 119 HUGOs were trained.

At the end of the training sessions, all Gorilla Guardians and Village Health and Conservation Teams were provided with personal protective equipment, including face masks, hand sanitizers, cloth masks and soap. Gorilla Guardians were also given posters with information on how to stop the COVID-19 spread amongst people and from humans to gorillas, for onward dissemination in the communities.

Conservation Through Public Health donated 4 Infrared thermometers to Uganda Wildlife Authority to help park staff record their temperatures before the visiting the gorillas.

These activities would not have been possible without the generous support of those who donated through GlobalGiving.

In May 2020, we received the good news of the birth of two baby Gorillas in Nshongi and Muyambi gorilla families in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda.

Sadly, however, at the beginning of June 2020, we lost Rafiki, the lead silverback of Nkuringo gorilla group. He was killed by a poacher, who claims that he killed the gorilla in self-defence after he was attacked while setting snares for duiker and bush pigs. Rafiki’s death was the result of increased poverty resulting from COVID-19 which has led to a surge in unemployment around the protect areas, after the cessation of tourism. Following Rafiki’s death, CTPH adjusted the focus of our GlobalGiving project to incorporate issues specific to the COVID-19 crises and the new challenges it has brought about, including providing nutritional support to community members on the outskirts of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park to reduce the need to enter the forest illegally to meet basic needs.

CTPH donates infrared thermometers to UWA
CTPH donates infrared thermometers to UWA
Rafiki. Photo by Uganda Wildlife Authority
Rafiki. Photo by Uganda Wildlife Authority
VHCT holding posters after the  training
VHCT holding posters after the training
Adult female Kabagenyi from Bwindi with her baby
Adult female Kabagenyi from Bwindi with her baby
Adult female from Muyambi gorilla group in Bwindi
Adult female from Muyambi gorilla group in Bwindi
Group photo after the training of park staff
Group photo after the training of park staff
Training of park staff
Training of park staff

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Mar 6, 2020

The Gorilla Guardians of Bwindi

Whilst the fundraising campaign did not reach its ambitious target, CTPH is very grateful to our many supporters who contributed to the project. Funds raised though GlobalGiving were put towards the on going Gorilla Guardians program which has achieved the following.

  • In April 2019, 212 Uganda Wildlife Authority rangers in Bwindi and Mgahinga Conservation Areas were trained in gorilla health monitoring.
  • By the end of 2019, 119 Gorilla Guardians were trained in gorilla health monitoring and ranger based data collection, including non-invasive sample collection and safely herding gorillas back to the forest, especially when they ranged in the community land.
  • By the end of 2019, 119 pairs of gum boots were purchased and distributed to 119 Gorilla Guardians.
  • 10 new gorilla guardians were recruited from Buremba and Mpungu parishes bordering Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. They received the same training as existing gorilla guardians.
  • 500 sample pots were purchased for the practical training of gorilla guardians. Other training materials purchased included rulers, note books and stationery.

There is a plan to hold another refresher training in April 2020 and fundraising for this refresher training is ongoing.

Whilst we did not meet our fundraising target for the Gorilla Guardian campaign, we learnt from the experience and anticipate our next project benefitting from the lessons learnt.

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Sep 9, 2019

APS Conference Global Giving Campaign 2019

Thanks to your generous support, the second congress of the African Primatological Society has just been hosted in Entebbe, Uganda from 3 - 5 September 2019. The three-day event was a resounding success, bringing together over 300 primate experts, including aspiring primatologists, researchers, conservation practitioners, tourism stakeholders and policy makers from Africa and across the globe to share ideas and research findings, and to discuss this year’s theme: ‘Challenges and Opportunities in Primate Conservation in Africa’, and find ways to promote active participation of native African primatologists in the international primatology arena. With 250 out of the 312 delegates from 24 different African countries, the APS more than achieved its goal of providing an accessible platform for African primatologists, in particular, to collaborate, network and discuss pressing challenges and issues, as well as opportunities and possible solutions, facing Africa’s primates. The USA, Europe, UK, Asia, Australia and Latin America were all very well represented at the conference as well. The conference proceedings were also very well documented in the media, helping to reach even more people with the important information shared over the course of the APS 2019 conference.

Over the course of the three days, delegates heard from a host of primatologists, both renowned and emerging, as well as other stakeholders in the primate and conservation field through a combination of plenary presentations, roundtable discussions, poster presentations as well as more focused group studies depending on specific areas of expertise. There was also a special breakaway workshop to develop an action plan for the Red Colobus, which are the most threatened group of primates in Africa. Red Colobus monkeys are considered to be on Red Alert, facing an extinction crisis requiring urgent, targeted, and coordinated conservation action.

Conservation Through Public Health and its partners who supported organisation of the APS have received countless votes of thanks and congratulations for a very successful conference which promises to ensure that African primatology and the work of African primatologists and conservationists remain firmly at the forefront of global primatology field. It is vital that native African primatologists be fully included in global primate debates and strategies if we are to succeed in protecting primate species across Africa which is home to a third of the World's primate species. This is particularly pertinent given that 55% of mainland Africa’s primate species, and 85% of those in continental Africa, are currently under threat.

A roundtable discussion on African primates’ status on the IUCN red listing as well as the state of primatology in each of the six regions in Africa (East, West, South, North and Central Africa and Madagascar) brought to light a similar theme running through the discussions pertaining to each region, with primates across the continent coming under severe threat due to human activity. This highlighted both the vital importance of the APS, and the APS conference, as a means by which to channel collective conservation efforts and the need for scaled up, continued concerted efforts to ensure the survival of Africa’s primates.

One area that everyone agreed did present significant opportunities for primate conservation is the ecotourism field. If managed well and implemented through a conservation lens, ecotourism has great potential to generate revenue in the areas where it is most needed for reinvestment into primate conservation and research. Uganda has shown great potential in this area and has many lessons learnt and insights, including from CTPH’s primate ecotourism experiences, which were shared with others in the interests of building a knowledge base in primate ecotourism. 

Following a three-day program packed with fascinating presentations, opportunities for focused discussion and collaboration and other activities, the following 2019 APS Conference Declarations were agreed:

  • More Africa-based programs should be established to strengthen leadership and empowerment
  • It is important that we strengthen regional and Global Integration of African Primatologists for the good of primates across the globe
  • Through our collaborations as the APS, we must make an effort to review and implement our proposed action plans as we continue to work together
  • It is vital that we engage a multi-sectoral approach in promoting conservation efforts including governments, local communities, the private sector and NGOs. 

As Conservation Through Public Health hosted the 2019 APS Conference, we would like to extend a special and sincere thanks to you all for heeding our plea for support and generously contributing to our APS 2019 Conference globalgiving fundraiser. Without your support, the conference would not have been possible. We will be updating our global giving page soon with new projects and hope that you will continue to follow us as, together, we endeavour to ensure the survival of Uganda, and Africa’s, primates and their habitats.

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