Queen Elizabeth National Park, a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve is found in western Uganda in the districts of Kasese, Rubirizi, Rukingiri, Kanungu and Kamwenge covering an area of 1,978 km². It includes the Maramagambo Forest and borders the Kigezi game reserve, Kyambura game reserve and Kibale National Park in Uganda and the Virunga National Park in the DRC.
The park is known for its diverse wildlife including the Cape buffalo, hippopotamus, crocodile, elephants, leopards, lions and chimpanzees among others. It is also famous for its volcanic features including the volcanic cones and deep crater lakes like the Katwe crater from which salt is excavated.
Our work at this site includes the CTPH Telecentre located in the UWA Visitor Information Centre at the Queen’s Pavilion along the Crater Drive in Queen Elizabeth National Park. The Telecentre was officially opened in 2007 by His Royal Highness Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh. It trains people to use computers and access internet at the centre and in their villages through a roving telecentre with cached websites, improving their attitudes to wildlife conservation. The centre is run by CTPH staff from two of the most disadvantaged communities around the park, Hamukungu and Kikorongo villages, who serve the tourists Gorilla Conservation Coffee (a social enterprise started by CTPH) and other beverages. With a stunning panoramic view of the craters, Ruwenzori Mountain, road to the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Equator, added to the internet provided by the CTPH Telecentre, the world becomes smaller, enabling people and businesses to surpass geographical barriers instantaneously.
We have established an early warning system for zoonotic disease outbreaks in this site, where we work with UWA to test buffalo and other wild animals for diseases that can spread between wildlife, humans and livestock. CTPH works with UWA to train the park staff in wildlife health monitoring including reporting clinical signs and collecting samples from animals found dead in the park that could have died of Anthrax or other fatal diseases. CTPH also works with the Kasese and Rubirizi District Veterinary Officers and surrounding communities to improve the health of the livestock through tests, treatments and vaccinations. CTPH initiated the formation of a pastoralist network of Conservation Community Animal Health Workers (CCAHWs) who are trained to improve the health and husbandry of livestock in the community as well as promote an understanding of disease issues between wildlife, livestock and people. They are model change agents improving conservation attitudes and public health practices in their community and are local community volunteers. In addition to their educational responsibilities, these community volunteers work with CTPH and UWA to test wildlife in the park for diseases that can spread at the wildlife/livestock/humans interface. They also play a vital role in improving community health as they treat livestock and report sick wildlife in their villages to UWA, creating an early warning system for disease outbreaks between wildlife, livestock and people.
RESCUE OF BABY ELEPHANTS
As a result of CTPH efforts, the Conservation Community Animal Health Workers (CCAHWs) community volunteers of Hamukungu Village have rescued two baby elephants – only a few weeks old, which were drowning in Lake George. The Chief Warden – Nelson Guma expressed his appreciation to CTPH for changing the communities’ attitudes to the extent that they are able to carry out bravely rescue a baby elephant on a canoe. The two elephants, Charles Hamukungu rescued in 2011 and Edward Twikiriza rescued in 2016 are now safe, healthy and adapted to life at the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre with the care of their devoted zoo keepers.