Happy World Environment Day

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Kikombe, adult female Mountain Gorilla from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Photo by Ryoma Otsuka

We hope you are doing well in these unpredictable times.

Today Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH) joins the rest of the world to celebrate World Environment Day (WED).

WED is celebrated every year on June 5 as a United Nations approach to encourage people worldwide to save and protect our environment from different environmental challenges the world is facing today.

WED 2020 will be hosted in Colombia in partnership with Germany under the theme “Celebrate Biodiversity” with a slogan “Time for Nature” — a call to action to combat the accelerating species loss and degradation of the natural world.

This year’s theme is timely as millions of species are facing extinction, with many critically endangered or endangered due to habitat loss, illegal wildlife trade, over population and climate change.

This day reminds us of how we are all indebted to the environment in which we live as it provides a lot to us, ranging from the foods we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink and the climate that makes our planet habitable.

This year’s celebrations will be different because gatherings are not allowed following guidelines to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Here in Uganda, we are fortunate to have relatively few cases of COVID-19, though the numbers are still increasing. This is of great concern because it puts biodiversity especially the endangered mountain gorillas, other primates and wildlife at a great risk. This ranges from great apes contracting the virus from already affected humans and dangers, which may arise from poaching due to the absence of tourism in protected areas.

CTPH has put emphasis on training Village Health and Conservation Teams (VHCTs) in reaching and sensitizing households about mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic spread among people and from people to gorillas.

Park staff have received similar training ​ with funding from​ International Gorilla Conservation Programme​ and so have the Gorilla Guardians who are community volunteers from the Human and Gorilla Conflict Resolution Teams (HUGOs) that herd gorillas back when they forage on community land.

We are very grateful to the​ Arcus Foundation, who have provided funding for training the Village Health and Conservation Teams (VHCTs) and Gorilla Guardians.

CTPH Team together with Uganda Wildlife Authority training VHCTs at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

During the trainings VHCTs were taught about how to identify and refer COVID-19 suspects, including those who may have Tuberculosis (TB), which is a priority disease that has similar symptoms of coughing and difficulty breathing. They were also trained to educate their communities what to do when they see gorillas in the community gardens to call the Gorilla Guardians, who are equipped with knowledge and protective gear to safely herd them back to the forest without putting them at any risk of contracting the virus.

The VHCTs were also provided with posters to distribute in their communities and personal protective equipment including cloth masks made by Ride 4 a Woman, sanitizers and liquid soap. We would like to thank Solidaridad for the support given to us to print posters with messages about COVID-19 and how to prevent its spread to gorillas.

As we continue to mitigate the impact of this coronavirus pandemic, let us recommit ourselves, raise our voices and take action to saving Mother Nature for present and future generations.

By spreading the word about our work, giving a donation and buying a bag of Gorilla Conservation Coffee, you can make a difference to the survival of endangered mountain gorillas, this World Environment Day.

Thank you very much for all your support.

Stay Safe and Healthy

From all of us at CTPH

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