Conservation Through Public Health
Conservation Through Public Health
Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH) is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation with an innovative methodology that focuses on the interdependence of wildlife and human health in and around the protected areas of Uganda. CTPH spearheads gorilla conservation with a multi-disciplinary approach, which not only focuses on gorilla health, but human and livestock health as well, for in areas where wildlife, people, and livestock intersect a downturn in any one invariably impacts on the health and stability of the others.
CTPH's approach is rooted in the prevention of zoonotic disease transmission, but also recognises that many communities living near protected areas depend on livelihoods based upon the gorilla tourism industry, which is heavily dependent on the health and survival of the gorilla groups.
CTPH aims to be an internationally renowned leader in gorilla research and conservation in two main ways. Firstly, by improving the health of humans, wildlife, and ecosystems that surround the gorillas, and secondly, by using a multi-disciplinary approach which promotes sustainable animal and human health services, advocacy, education, and research.
CTPH uses integrated wildlife conservation and community public health interventions to implement three strategic programs:
• Wildlife Health Monitoring
• Human Public Health
• Education and Communication
Wildlife Health Monitoring
CTPH has established an early warning system for disease outbreaks through wildlife faecal sample collection and analysis.
In Bwindi Impenetrable National Park CTPH has trained rangers, trackers, field assistants, and community volunteers in gorilla health monitoring through recognizing clinical signs in gorillas and in collecting faecal samples from night nests and fresh trails.
Park trackers, rangers, and community volunteers from the Human and Gorilla Conflict Resolution (HUGO) team also collect weekly mountain gorilla faecal samples when gorillas forage in community land.
The samples are analysed for pathogens (parasites, bacteria, and other disease causing organisms) at the Gorilla Research Clinic, and the results are shared with local health clinics.
In Queen Elizabeth National Park rangers and research assistants are trained to recognise and report clinical signs in the wildlife, and to collect blood smears and other tissue samples from animals that they find dead in the course of their daily work. This enables the early detection of fatal diseases (e.g. anthrax) and prevents it spreading further within the park.
Another component of the CTPH training is disease surveillance to detect infection rates and trends of diseases that spread between wildlife, livestock, and people - to monitor this, a certain number of wild animals are tested for Tuberculosis, brucellosis, and Foot and Mouth Disease, and the results are used to aid better management of wildlife and livestock in and around the national park.
It is CTPH's goal to improve the quality and quantity of data collected in the wildlife/livestock monitoring programme and to develop mechanisms for information sharing with the healthcare clinics in the communities.
Human Public Health
CTPH is working with the Kanungu District Medical Office and local health centres to improve the health of Bwindi communities. A Population, Health, and Environment (PHE) approach is being used to recue threats to mountain gorillas and other wildlife, by consolidating community based health care to promote family planning, and prevent and control TB, scabies, HIV/AIDS and dysentery. This is done by facilitating the formation of community health volunteer networks, which education and encourage their community to be more hygienic and have better health practices and conservation attitudes.
To sustain the volunteers' efforts, CTPH is helping to create Community Based Organisations to spearhead this approach to their communities, and has introduced income generating livestock livelihood projects for the community groups to derive an income to sustain their volunteer efforts. CTPH also engages traditional healers and gets them to refer suspect TB and HIV patients.
Community education focuses on the relationship between good health and hygiene habits, which in turn affects gorilla health, ecotourism, and sustainable livelihoods.
This is achieved through several methods:
1. Local drama groups disseminating the CTPH message
2. Targeting village health talks and home visits by CTPH community volunteers using visual aids such as flip charts that incorporate the CTPH message
3. Distribution of educational brochures and newsletters
4. Promoting the health message via sign posts in key areas
In Queen Elizabeth National Park, CTPH is working the Kasese District Veterinary Office and surrounding communities to improve the health of the livestock. CTPH encourage the pastoralists to form a network of community animal health workers (CAHWS) who are trained to improve the health and husbandry of livestock in the community, as well as promoting an understanding of disease issues between wildlife, livestock, and people.
It is CTPH's mission to broaden and strengthen their base of key stakeholders with whom they conduct integrated conservation and public health awareness campaigns, and to strengthen the tools to evaluate the impact of community health programmes.
Information, Education, and Communication
The Internet provided by CTPH Telecentre makes the world smaller, enabling people and businesses to surpass geographical barriers instantaneously. Families are no longer limited to interaction in their own towns, but can reach the rest of the world with ease.
A CTPH Telecentre/UWA Visitor Information Centre at the Queen's Pavilion Crater Drive Gate entrance to Queen Elizabeth National Park trains people to use computers and access Internet at the centre. CTPH also provides a roving telecentre with cached websites to local communities with the aim of educating and improving attitudes to wildlife conservation.
It is CTPH's goal to develop a core curriculum and projects for the Information, Education, and Communications programme that are closely integrated with the CTPH mission.
Tusk has been supporting CTPH since 2013 and has assisted the organisation with the construction of a Gorilla Health and Community Conservation Centre. The centre is part of an initiative that allows CTPH to provide an early warning system for disease outbreaks, helping to ensure timely responses and evidence driven interventions. The Centre is a project that CTPH are initiating in partnership with the Ugandan Wildlife Authority (UWA).