Advancing the Health of Gorillas and Humans

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Population, Health, and Environment in Uganda


Submitted By: Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, CEO, Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH)

CTPH Co-Founder, Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka and Stephen Rubanga, display a flip chart as part of the organization’s health education workshops with local communities. Photo by CTPH.
Funding Approach: Single Funded with Co-benefits. Geographic Approach: Co-located. Sectors Integrated: Health, Biodiversity, and Water.

Integrating Village Health and Conservation

After fatal scabies skin disease outbreaks in mountain gorillas were traced to people living around Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, veterinarians and wildlife specialists established a grassroots non-governmental organization, Conservation Through Public Health, to meet the need to address biodiversity conservation and human health together. Conservation Through Public Health promotes a population, health, and environment (PHE) approach to advance the health of gorillas and humans in Uganda. The organization’s Village Health and Conservation Teams implement behavior change communication and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) service delivery. Teams hold health education workshops with local communities to raise awareness on WASH, connections between human and gorilla health, and linkages between gorilla health and local tourism. Conservation Through Public Health established a gorilla research clinic that conducts comparative pathogen analysis in people, gorillas, and livestock to support an early warning system for disease outbreaks at the human-gorilla-livestock interface. The organization also supports community livelihood activities, including a livestock income-generating project and “Gorilla Conservation Coffee,” which provides a premium price to local farmers with a premium price from consumers. These alternative livelihood activities decrease community reliance on agriculture, helping to minimize land use and resulting in less conversion of gorilla habitat to agricultural land.

CTPH’s multidisciplinary approach includes laboratory analysis to prevent and control the spread of zoonotic disease between people, wildlife, and livestock. Photo by CTPH.

This PHE approach has achieved biodiversity conservation and improved gorilla and human health. Gorillas are now protected on community land, and human-related disease outbreaks among the gorillas have decreased. Since 2003, mountain gorilla populations have increased from 780 to 1,063, in part due to Conservation Through Public Health’s efforts. Human-wildlife conflicts have decreased as a result of improved attitudes towards conservation and local community support for the national park. Over the same period, community health and WASH outcomes have also improved. The number of homes with handwashing facilities have increased three- to six-fold and 67 percent of women have access to family planning as of 2019, compared to 22 percent in 2003. Livelihood activities have increased income and savings among community members, which has also improved food security. These cross-sectoral outcomes are contributing to sustained biodiversity conservation efforts and improved lives for local communities.

Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka poses with a mountain gorilla. Mountain gorilla populations have increased, in part due to Conservation Through Public Health’s efforts. Photo by Jo-Anne McArthur.

Lessons Learned


Recognize the differences in measuring biodiversity conservation and human health outcomes.

Appreciate that health outcomes, such as increased handwashing facilities and increased access to family planning, are often easier to measure than biodiversity conservation results, such as increased community tolerance for gorilla populations, reduced poaching, and adoption of sustainable agriculture practices.

Acknowledge that implementing integrated programming and achieving multiple sector outcomes requires additional resources and uniquely skilled personnel.

Recognize that holistic and collaborative approaches to promoting the health of people, wildlife, and the environment requires staff who understand the interlinkages among public health and environmental concerns in and around protected areas, as well as additional monitoring, evaluation, and learning efforts. Invest in monitoring and evaluation to measure progress.

Learn More

Explore more case studies on the USAID Biodiversity Integration Case Competition website.

Learn more about biodiversity integration with other USAID technical sectors on the Biodiversity Conservation Gateway.

For more information on Conservation Through Public Health’s work on biodiversity conservation and human health, please visit their website.

Stakeholders meeting February, 2020. Photo by CTPH.

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