By Charlotte Beauvoisin and Amy Roll
In 21st century conservation circles, it is widely assumed that for conservation to be successful, human communities need to benefit. The benefits usually come in the form of jobs, community project such as schools or some training opportunities.
Improvements in human health are rarely discussed leave alone the potentially lethal impact of untreated human health issues on animal health and conservation.
One pioneering East African conservation organization that is successfully tackling these issues is Conservation Through Public Health.
In 1996, Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH) founder and CEO, Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, was working as the Uganda Wildlife Authority’s first veterinarian in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in the southwest of the country. Bwindi is one of the few places where the 880 critically endangered mountain gorillas can still be found.
She experienced firsthand how fragile the balance between wildlife and human health is when she led a team managing a scabies skin disease outbreak among the mountain gorillas. Ruhara, an infant gorilla had died from a scabies outbreak that was eventually traced back to the communities living around the park. It was discovered that the gorillas had gone in to people’s gardens in search of bananas and got infected with scabies after coming into contact the clothes of people who had the disease.