She has Dedicated her Life to making Human Beings Co-exist with AnimalsWritten by Edwin Nuwagaba
You don't need to have fully read Dr Gladys Kalema's profile to comprehend her love for wildlife. The gorilla sculptures at the reception of her office, speak volumes.
It is not by accident that today, she is one of the most popular conservationists of our time. Back in the day, when she joined Kibuli Secondary School, she helped revive the Wild Life Club which had gone quiet. She confesses to have been a passionate lover of cats when she was a child.
Right now Kalema holds a number of awards for her contribution to saving the most endangered species of gorillas.
This conservationist is a mother of two. Her six month-old baby boy lay in a baby carrier when I went to interview her.
Her husband Lawrence Zikusoka was with her in the office, and he helped with the baby while we went through the interview.
Upon graduating she worked as a veterinary officer at the Uganda Wildlife Authority. She is celebrated for having set up a veterinary unit to care for animals in national parks.
As a result today, there are many people being trained in wild veterinary. "I remember when I started out; I was the first full time wild veterinary. I had to go to all the parks whenever there was a sick animal," she recalls.
Her organisation, Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH), helps prevent the spread of diseases from human beings to animals and vice versa.
Gorillas and humans have a 98 per cent genetic resemblance, making transmission of diseases between the species highly probable.
The 39-year-old doctor, trained at the University of London's Royal Veterinary College, has won accolades from Africa to the US. In 2008, she was honoured with the San Diego Zoo's "Conservation in Action Award."
She investigated the first scabies outbreak in Bwindi gorillas, following the death of an infant. Her suspicion was that the infant had been infected with human skin mites. She found that gorillas visited by tourists had a higher parasite rate than those not visited, implying that tourism can have a negative impact on mountain gorillas' health.
Some of the programmes her NGO runs include; wildlife health monitoring, human public health, and information education and communication a programme that has seen community Tele-centres set up in Bwindi and Queen Elizabeth National Parks. But while she has dedicated her efforts and time, to see that wildlife is sustained, she cites a number of challenges that hinder the industry.
Human encroachment around the parks, she says has been the biggest problem. Because of this, lions eat people's goats, elephants destroy people's crops and in return human beings also want to revenge by killing them, either directly or indirectly.
"For as long as there is competition for resources; people wanting to go and collect firewood in the parks and animals coming to raid people's gardens, the future of wild life is not so great," she laments.
She adds that, there is need to promote family planning in general but more so, around the protected areas, because that is the only way we can fight the poverty cycle and that means there is less pressure on the natural resources. Accommodation facilities in the parks are also not enough, she says.
In her moments of service, she recalls the day she went to treat a sick elephant in Kidepo National Park, which ended up chasing her. "As I approached to treat it, it chased us and almost caught us. I was with a game ranger and another German vet- and I out-ran all of them," she says with a huge smile across her face.
It has not been easy for her. First the big challenge she faces as a conservationist is to raise the money. "It is hard to raise money for conservation. It is frustrating when you don't have enough money to accomplish your goals. Then convincing people that it is important to treat animals which are wild." This she says because most people used to think that when a wild animal died, it was only natural, a mentality which she has helped to change.
"You see, even in the field of conservation veterinary care is a new thing. If there is a sick zebra and you want to treat it for instance, they will tell you; it might have been the next meal for the lion why are you treating it?" she says.
Above all this, however, Kalema says that Uganda has enormous potential, to return the glory it had in the 1970s as Africa's top tourism destination. "We have two charismatic great apes; the mountain gorillas, chimps, beautiful forest habitats and savannah all in one area which creates a very unique contrast. We have tree climbing lions, a good climate; it is not too hot neither too cold, and we have our unique cultures," she says of the reason Winston Churchill named Uganda the Pearl of Africa.
But still, there is hope for wildlife as Kalema says, stakeholders have so far done a good job sensitising Ugandans about conservation.
LAIR OF THE SILVERBACKSWritten by Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, National Geographic
It's a lush green tropical forest in southwest Uganda, home to about half of the world's estimated 700 mountain gorillas. But what makes Bwindi so special is not only these critically endangered, magnificent, and charismatic cousins with whom humans have in common 98.4 percent of their genetic material, but also the special charm and hospitality of the people who share this fragile World Heritage site with the planet's gentle giants – and whose livelihood is increasingly dependent on gorilla eco-tourism.
When I first went to Bwindi as a veterinary student in 1994, I thought I had reached the ends of the Earth. On my first morning in Bwindi I got up to the most stunning scenery of mist rising over the forest, steep slopes, and narrow valleys, which truly looked impenetrable. I had to wait – impatiently – for four days before tracking the gorillas, because I had a nasty cold. During this time, I reflected on the health risks we pose to the gorillas. This has shaped my career as a wildlife veterinarian and community health advocate.
While in Bwindi I came to appreciate unique sounds and smells – the calls of the cuckoo and turaco, among other bird species; the whiffs of fresh, misty air and pungent gorilla dung. By the time I had completed my stay, I had falien in love with the place, which has since become a second home.
My first sighting of a mountain gorilla was of a young silverback, called Kacupira, whose name means "broken hand." He was alone, feeding on bark. What struck me was how calm and accommodating Kacupira was to our group of six tourists and three park rangers.
By now I have tracked gorillas over 200 times, and everyone in my family, including my elderly mother, has joined me at one time or another. Each time I learn something new and it is always an emotional encounter (especially for me, when I am faced with treating sick gorillas). This is what draws visitors from around the world to Bwindi. I have watched people cry when they first see the mountain gorillas. I'll never forget one lady who said, "That baby gorilla is cuter than my grandson."
Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka has worked with the Bwindi mountain gorillas for 15 years. She is the founder and CEO of the Ugandan-based nonprofit, Conservation Through Public Health.
Saving Gorillas by Bringing Healthcare to Local People in Uganda FeaturedWritten by Jeremy Hance, Mongabay.com
Sep 18, 2009
Author: Jeremy Hance, Mongabay.com
"Because we share 98.4% genetic material with gorillas we can easily transmit diseases to each other." Therefore, explains Kalema-Zikusoka "our efforts to protect the gorillas will always be undermined by the poor public health of the people who they share a habitat with. In order to effectively improve the health of the gorillas we needed to also improve the health of the people, which will not only directly reduced the health threat to gorillas through improvement of public health practices, but also improved community attitudes toward wildlife conservation."
This is CTPH's mission in a nut shell: save wildlife by improving local human health and hygiene. It's a win-win concept that so far has been ignored by major conservation organizations.
It was an outbreak of scabies skin disease outbreak among the mountain gorillas, which killed an infant gorilla and sickened the whole group, that led Kalema-Zikusoka to establish CTPH. When the disease was eventually linked to the neighbouring human villages, Kalema-Zikusoka saw a way to both help gorillas and people. Now CTPH provides health services and education in hygene to local people while monitoring gorilla health.
"Park staff collect fecal samples from gorillas every week and when they range outside the park," Kalema-Zikusoka says. "Results from the fecal analysis are shared with the livestock and human health sectors to be able to better detect disease transmission at the human/wildlife/livestock interface."
Yet since its inception, CTPH has moved far beyond monitoring health of both groups for possible disease. They have worked long and hard to give the local people a better life, including education and economic opportunities. CTPH has begun a program to encourage family planning (Uganda has one of the world's highest population growth rates); they have built a telecentre so locals can have access to the Internet and therefore the wider world; they have begun computer courses at the center; and the organization has promoted ecotourism in the area as an alternative to poaching.
CTPH's successes have not always been easy. Kalema-Zikusoka says that one of the difficult tasks has been receiving funding for an organization that straddles the line between public health and conservation.
"Sometimes when we go to human health donors they say that we are animal people or when we ask conservation donors for funds to support community public health they say that this is public health not conservation," she says.
Yet CTPH has largely overcome this confusion. "We have made great progress in explaining this approach and received support from donors who see CTPH as a cutting edge approach to promoting wildlife conservation and integrated conservation and development initiatives (ICDs)."
It is clear that CTPH is beginning to be recognized for its innovative and effective approach: Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka won the Whitley Gold Award for grassroots nature conservation, i.e. the 'Green Oscars', this year.
In a September interview with mongabay.com, Kalema-Zikusoka spoke about winning the Whitley, combining public health and conservation, and the importance to conservation of providing education and technology to local communities.
Kalema-Zikusoka will be presenting at the upcoming Wildlife Conservation Network Expo in San Francisco on October 3rd.
INTERVIEW WITH DR. GLADYS KALEMA-ZIKUSOKA
Mongabay: What is your background?
Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka: I am a wildlife veterinarian with public health field research experience in and around protected areas in Africa. I started my career with wildlife, when reviving a wildlife club, the Kibuli Secondary School Wildlife Club, at high school in Uganda in 1988, which focused on conservation education and had not been functioning for many years. This experience made me want to become a vet who works with wildlife. In 1996 I became the first veterinarian in the Uganda Wildlife Authority, and set up the veterinary department. During this time I led a team that investigated the first scabies skin disease outbreak in mountain gorillas traced to people living around the park. This was another turning point in my life where I felt that I also needed to improve the public health status of communities bordering protected areas who are important stewards of wildlife.
Mongabay: Most people wouldn’t necessarily link public health concerns with conservation. What is the connection?
Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka: I got involved in public health when investigating a scabies skin disease outbreak in mountain gorillas of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, which resulted in the death of an infant and sickness in the rest of the group that only recovered with Ivermectin anti-parasitic treatment. The outbreak was eventually traced to people living around the park who have inadequate health care, hygiene practices, and information on diseases that can spread between animals and people (zoonoses). Because we share 98.4% genetic material with gorillas we can easily transmit diseases to each other. This made me realise that our efforts to protect the gorillas will always be undermined by the poor public health of the people who they share a habitat with. In order to effectively improve the health of the gorillas we needed to also improve the health of the people, which will not only directly reduced the health threat to gorillas through improvement of public health practices, but also improved community attitudes toward wildlife conservation. In particular the communities around Bwindi and other great ape protected areas—where there is ecotourism—benefit directly from having healthy gorillas. When we conducted health education workshops on the risks of human and gorilla disease transmission, we found that the communities that were benefiting from tourism through job creation, revenue sharing and small businesses, were very willing to listen to what we had to say, because they saw that if they are healthy and hygienic this will contribute to sustaining the gorilla populations, and a source of income from gorilla ecotourism.
Mongabay: How has your training as a vet impacted your work with your organization Conservation through Public Health (CTPH)?
Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka: My training as a vet has impacted my work at CTPH, where the programs are designed around a background of veterinary medicine and conservation medicine. We have three integrated programs: wildlife health monitoring, human public health and information, education and communication. In the wildlife health monitoring program I have the opportunity to implement what I was not able to as UWA vet where my main job was to attend to emergencies with sick wildlife and disease outbreak, and did not leave me enough time to set up long term systems to monitor health of the wildlife and establish an early warning system for disease outbreaks. My veterinary training has enabled CTPH to set up a disease monitoring and surveillance system where park staff collect fecal samples from gorillas every week and when they range outside the park. Results from the fecal analysis are shared with the livestock and human health sectors to be able to better detect disease transmission at the human/wildlife/livestock interface. My veterinary training also enables us to carry out wildlife interventions, such as immobilizations and post-mortems when the need arises.
Mongabay: The public is aware of many examples of diseases passing from humans, but what are some examples of diseases passing from humans to animals, such as gorillas?
Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka: Examples of diseases passing from humans to great apes are scabies passing from local community members to gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and respiratory viruses passing from researchers to chimpanzees in the Tai Forest in Ivory Coast.
Mongabay: Much of your work has been with gorillas (and the people living near them)—have you also worked with other species?
Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka: I have also worked with other species, particularly when I was the veterinary officer for Uganda Wildlife Authority dealing with animal emergencies, disease outbreaks, translocations and reintroductions and problem animals. The mandate of CTPH involves us working with all the wildlife, and currently we are setting up a savannah ecosystem model in Queen Elizabeth National Park based on the forest ecosystem model in Bwindi, where we are dealing with issues of disease transmission between wildlife and livestock. We work with chimpanzees in the forest ecosystem, and other species in the savannah ecosystem, including buffalo, Uganda kob and warthogs to see if they are sharing diseases, such as Tuberculosis (TB), brucellosis, foot and mouth disease, anthrax and African Swine Fever with cattle, goats and pigs.
Mongabay: How important is tourism—such as visitors coming to see the gorillas—to the communities you work with?
Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka: Tourism is very important for the communities because it provides a sustainable source of income from gorilla ecotourism that helps to prevent the communities from going into the park to poach and collect firewood. Uganda Wildlife Authority set up a community conservation department to ensure that the communities bordering the park benefit and become active stakeholders in wildlife conservation. Around Bwindi, 90% of the rangers/trackers are from the immediate communities and former poachers were employed as trackers; 20% of the park entrance fee is shared with the communities bordering the park and used to build schools, clinics and roads; and most importantly people are benefitting from small businesses selling crafts, food and offering accommodation to tourists that goes directly to the local entrepreneurs in the community. Some schools such as Buhoma Community Primary School (former Bwindi Orphans School) were built through tourists sponsoring kids to go to school, so these children are growing up understanding the importance of gorillas in sustaining their future livelihoods.
Mongabay: When working to save species like gorillas why do you believe it is important to also improve the lives of local people?
Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka: When working to save gorillas, it is important to also improve the lives of the local people because they need to see tangible benefits that can be derived from protecting the gorillas. If they are poor they will only be thinking of today’s needs and not tomorrow’s future for their children. On top of improving the health of the communities, CTPH is also promoting family planning because Uganda has one of the highest population growth rates of 3.3% and fertility rate of 7.1. Furthermore, Bwindi has one of the highest population densities in Africa of 200 to 300 people per square kilometre and an average size of 10 children per family, making it very difficult for their parents to send them to school and give them basic primary health care. This in turn leads to the children not being able to get jobs resulting in poaching and illegal harvesting, as well as harbouring many preventable infectious diseases that could also harm the gorillas.
Mongabay: Your organization has opened a Telecenter in Bwindi. Can you tell us about the center and how has it helped conservation and local health?
Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka: The telecentre in Bwindi is helping to address the problems of poverty, isolation, poor health practices, lack of knowledge on sustainable environments, and limited access to education and job training in and around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Community members, primarily youth learn computer skills, as well as accessing the internet and community websites in the local languages. CTPH has created web content on these websites about the importance of being healthy and hygienic to prevent disease transmission between people and gorillas, which in turn promotes sustainable ecotourism and livelihoods. When people learn how to use the computer and access the internet, it opens up their world, and they can communicate with the tourists they meet, other stakeholders in the tourism, conservation and development sectors; and also carry out e-commerce such as sending photos of the crafts they are selling to potential buyers worldwide as well as making bookings through the internet for tourists to stay at their accommodation.
Mongabay: The center has courses in Computer Studies. How important is education to the local people?
Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka: Education is very important to the local people, because it is the main way to break the poverty cycle. With computer skills the local people can get jobs, and be in a better position to seek support for their communities through the internet. CTPH has just started a distance learning program between schools in Uganda and schools in New York State to promote cross cultural learning of the social and natural sciences.
Mongabay: What advice would you give a local student interested in pursuing conservation?
Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka: The advice I would give to a local student interested in pursuing conservation is to volunteer with a conservation organization, such as a government body like Uganda Wildlife Authority, conservation NGOs like CTPH, local Community Based Organizations, small and medium enterprises and tour companies working around protected areas. This will enable them to gain exposure into all aspects of wildlife conservation, including biodiversity protection, research, veterinary medicine, public health, law enforcement, community conservation, tourism, marketing, public relations and business development.
Mongabay: What are the greatest challenges of your work?
Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka: The greatest challenges of my work are both internal and external. The internal challenges include not having enough resources to do the work that we feel needs to be done; this includes funds, people and equipment. So I end up having to do alot of multitasking which includes fundraising, making sure that the core activities are ongoing, in other words that our field programs are running, as well as the supporting finance and administration. We also find that there is a great need to carry out marketing and public relations yet do not have enough resources and this is an area that donors don’t like to fund. The external challenges include convincing people that integrating wildlife conservation and public health can create common benefits for both people and animals. Sometimes when we go to human health donors they say that we are animal people or when we ask conservation donors for funds to support community public health they say that this is public health not conservation. However we have made great progress in explaining this approach and received support from donors who see CTPH as a cutting edge approach to promoting wildlife conservation and integrated conservation and development initiatives (ICDs). This approach is also because public health is one of the most important indicators of poverty in the developing world.
Mongabay: You recently won the Whitley Gold Award for grassroots nature conservation. Can you tell us about this award and what does it mean for CTPH?
Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka: Wining the Whitley Gold Award for grassroots nature conservation commonly known as the "Green Oscars" is a very great honour for CTPH, our partners and supporters. We were particularly honoured to hear the words of Edward Whitley who said that the aim of the Whitley Awards is to find and support conservation scientists whose vision, passion, determination and qualities of leadership mean they are achieving inspirational results in conservation, and that CTPH demonstrates all this and more. The photograph of HRH, Princess Anne presenting the award, at a ceremony at the Royal Geographical Society in London, generated alot of interest and recognition from all sectors of society in Uganda and from the international community. It also resulted in many interviews with the media to promote the importance of gorilla conservation and how public health is providing a tangible benefit for communities surrounding the park. This is particularly significant this year because it is the International Year of the Gorilla, and further highlights our efforts at CTPH to protect a species that has become a symbol of what conservation means and offers its human neighbours access to useful tourism income, but yet is vulnerable to human diseases because we share 98% of DNA.
The Whitley Gold Award also generated much needed funds to run the operations of CTPH. The funds will be used to measure the conservation impact of CTPH’s work in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park by documenting improvement of hygiene indicators of community members who regularly interface with gorillas and resultant effect on the gorilla health status.
Mongabay: What can people do to help CTPH?
Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka: People can help CTPH by spreading the word about CTPH and the urgent public and animal health needs that we address; joining our membership program that is soon to be launched, adopting a gorilla or gorilla group where you will receive regularly updates on the gorillas or group that you adopted; providing grant funding for one of our new initiatives or sustaining the ongoing initiatives; making an individual gift to support our work, visiting us on a working holiday with CTPH where you will get to work at our Gorilla Research Clinic and with our community public health and telecentre team. If you choose to stay at the CTPH Silverback Gorilla Camp in Bwindi, where all fees for meals and lodging support the work of CTPH, you will get a tour of our Gorilla Clinic, hear a presentation on health threats to the endangered Mountain Gorillas, go gorilla tracking, bird watching and hiking in the forest.
Ten Years of Conserving Wildlife FeaturedWritten by Gilbert Kidimu
Written By Gilbert Kidimu
It is hard to believe that our existence as humans largely depends on the countless wild animals, birds, insects, amphibians and other creatures we share with this planet. While some people do not care for the wild that much, natural world experts reason that wildlife is a part of the earth’s ecosystem.
It functions on the basis that everything, from the smallest organisms to the largest mammals, is connected and operates as a unit. Breaking part of the eco connection by allowing a species to become extinct not only damages the earth’s ecosystem, but also endangers humanity’s very existence.
With that in mind, Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH), an NGO, has for the past 10 years worked towards ensuring that Uganda’s wildlife is kept safe from harm and given the right environment to thrive.
Their goal is to improve the lives of people living around game reserves. CTPH conducts programmes to protect gorillas and other wildlife from human and livestock disease. They also prevent disease transmission from wildlife to humans and livestock to increase the local use of family planning.
The NGO also aims at using information technology to help locallevel development and educate people about the environment. As a result, the number of gorillas in Uganda has increased and the tourism sector is bringing in more foreign revenue than before and in the process becoming a source of employment to thousands of Ugandan citizens. Today, CTPH is celebrating 10 years of existence.
“We want to use this opportunity to let more people know about our activities, thank and encourage our partners and interest new ones,” says Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, founder and CEO of CTPH. The guest of honour, who also serves as CTPH’s patron is Her Royal Highness, Queen Sylvia Nagginda the Nnabagereka of Buganda.
This celebration also comes after CTPH became the first Ugandan organisation to win the GDN 2012 Japanese Award for Most Innovative Development Project (MIDP).
It was commended for improving service delivery through scaling up the Village Health and Conservation Teams (VHCT) and Village Savings and Loan associations (VSLA) approach. “Winning the 2012 Japanese Most Innovative Development Project Award has been one of the most significant achievements since we founded CTPH,” Kalema- Zikusoka explains.
The winning project was Integrated Biodiversity Conservation, Health and Community Development around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, SW Uganda. The GDN panel reasoned that it demonstrated the most innovative model that can sustain environmental, social, and economic development in Uganda and beyond. Launched in 2000 with the support of the Government of Japan, this competition seeks to unearth new talent and support innovative ideas on development. Nearly 7,200 researchers representing more than 100 countries throughout the developing and transition world have applied for this competition to date.
In 2011 alone, the competition received 800 submissions. The competition specifically targets emerging researchers and development practitioners from developing countries and economies. The main purpose of the competition is to channel funds to where other types of funding cannot reach.
Kalema-Zikusoka says scaling their activities to other locations and ecosystems within Uganda and the region is a key focus of CTPH’s new five year strategic plan.
“We plan to improve the nutrition of people by using cow dung to make fertilisers for the garden for better yields to fill their food baskets,’ she says. Kalema-Zikusoka adds that some of the long-term goals are focussing on sustainability. “We are considering a cooler system for milk and all animal products and getting biogas out of cow excrement.
When there is enough milk, farmers shall have enough to keep some for the family hence a healthy livelihood .
Protecting wildlife and improving human life
Many times, people living around game reserves come in contact with wild animals. Like other animals, wild animals get diseases and some of these diseases can be transmitted to humans. Human beings also can carry diseases that can infect the wild animals. Because of this, Uganda Wildlife Authority discourages direct contact with wildlife.
Over the years, we have learnt that there are some diseases such as tuberculosis, brucellosis that are shared by both animals and man,” says Steven Rubanga, the founder and programme officer with Animal Health Technical. He adds that sadly, people living around game reserves do not know the signs until they are tested and diagnosed. Rift valley fever, foot and mouth disease are shared by both cattle and buffalos.
Since these animals share the same grazing ground, the disease spread is wide. In 1996 and 2000, there was an outbreak of scabies in one of the habitation sites. When samples were taken and sent abroad, it was discovered that the parasites originated from human beings.
The outbreaks led to the formation of Community Health Programme to promote hygiene and sanitation plus treating diseases. “We work with community health care volunteers to create change in behaviour; we also do livestock training in husbandry and health,” Rubanga explains.
He adds that a survey on hygiene and sanitation discovered that some families lived with their animals and shared sources of water with the wild ones. “We set up CTPH because we are concerned about disease transmission at the Human- Livestock interface; diseases such as scabies are easily transmitted from humans to animals and vice versa,” Rubanga says. Three programmes were thus set up, one of them being Wild Life Health Monitoring (research clinic).
Livestock and human Samples are collected to learn what they are suffering from and then treatment. People around the game parks can now report any case of sickness to the wild life authority; it is a form of monitoring to look out for diseases that could spill over from the animals to humans or the other way round.
Increasing income People living around protected areas in Uganda are among the poorest and most marginalised rural communities. They have limited access to basic social services including healthcare, education and training on livelihood options. Some of these areas have important biodiversity including critically endangered and charismatic wildlife, like the mountain gorillas whose population recently increased to 880.
Improving access to basic social services and livelihoods is a requirement for both people and wildlife co-existence. To address the issue of sustaining Village Health and Conservation Teams (VHCTs), a big challenge to the Ministry of Health and supporting NGOs, in 2009, CTPH provided bicycles to the first set of VHCTs in Kanungu District, an intervention, which was adopted in 2011 by the health ministry for all Village Health Teams. Another incentive on the request of the volunteers was group livestock income generating projects.
“We get them high breeds, which provide higher yields of milk and meat. They do not have to keep a big number of animals,” Rubanga explains. In Bwindi, a system from Queen Elizabeth was replicated where volunteer trainers’ allowances were increased when they were given improved breed livestock. In the Livestock programme in Bwindi and Queen Elizabeth National parks, health workers, veterinary officers, and community volunteers are trained and equipped with basic vet knowledge.
Buganda Queen Calls for Cultural Conservation, FeaturedWritten by Gerald Tenywa
Buganda’s Queen, Sylvia Nagginda wants conservation to be integrated into cultures.
“It is important to conserve with culture,” said Nagginda, adding that people conserve what they know and that promotion of culture would help to achieve conservation.
She was speaking at Entebbe on Wednesday, as the guest of honour during celebrations to mark the 10th anniversary of the NGO Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH).
Nagginda unveiled a foundation stone where an exhibit that will provide sanctuary to the cane rat (omusu) is to be constructed at the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC).
The cane rat is the totem of the Omusu clan to which Nagginda belongs. Buganda has 52 clans, each with a special totem.
Most of the totems are either animals or plants, which UWEC is planning to exhibit at the centre, according to Mary Balyamujura, the UWEC board chairperson.
Nagginda also interacted with Charles Hamukungu, a baby elephant, rhinos and the shoebill, which are some of the most important attractions at the centre.
Nagginda, who is the patron of CTPH, said she was grateful to be associated with the organisation.
“It is because of organisations like CTPH that wildlife will not be a myth but a reality for the coming generations,” said Nagginda.
Princess Katrina Ssangalyambogo was also present.
The Nnabagereka, Sylvia Nagginda (L) and her daughter Katrina Ssangalyambogo at the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre in Entebbe during celebrations to mark Conservation Through Public Health on Wednesday. Photo by Stephen Wandera
Entebbe-The Nnabagereka, Sylvia Nagginda, has recommended the promotion of culture as a viable way of conserving wildlife.
Ms Nagginda was speaking during celebrations to mark 10 years of the Conservation through Public Health (CTPH), at Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC) on Wednesday, where she launched the omusu (cane rat) exhibit - her clan totem.
“Totems bring people of a clan together and also ensure the respect of those particular animals. They also prevent people from hurting the animals,” she said.
Ms Maria Baryamujura, a trustee of the UWEC, said in line with conserving wildlife and promoting culture through the exhibition of totems, the centre was also planning to invite the Kabaka of Buganda to launch more exhibits of the Buganda totems, as well as an ostrich farming project, to improve the livelihoods of Ugandans.
Dr Gladys Kalema Zikusoka, the founder and chief executive officer of CTPH, thanked the Nnabagereka, who is also the patron of the organization, for presiding over the function.
According to Dr Zikusoka, in the 10 years of the organisation’s existence, they have developed a health monitoring system for both mountain gorillas and the communities surrounding the protected areas.
He added that they had also set up tele-centres for information communication technology, set up conservation and village health teams to provide primary health care, as well as set up income generating activities for these teams.
“We plan to scale up from Bwindi, Virunga and Queen Elizabeth to other national parks in Uganda, East and Central Africa. We also plan to build a more permanent centre at Bwindi,” Dr Zikusooka said.
History. A totem is a being, object, or symbol representing an animal or plant that serves as an emblem of a group of people, such as a family, clan, group, lineage, or tribe, reminding them of their ancestry. In kinship and descent, if the apical ancestor of a clan is nonhuman, it is called a totem. Normally this belief is accompanied by a totemic myth. Totems have been around for years and they are usually in the shape of an animal, and every animal has a certain personality.