Empowering African Veterinarians
Gorilla Doctors aims to employ outstanding African veterinarians and mentor the next generation of wildlife health experts. To do so, we sponsor educational training programs in close cooperation with African schools and universities and continuing education for our staff members. By investing in training we are ultimately envisioning the time when in-country veterinarians will be the primary sole providers of eastern gorilla veterinary care. Read on to learn about these efforts.
Since 1996, Gorilla Doctors has partnered with Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, to build up and support the top veterinary medicine and animal health program in the Great Lakes region of east-central Africa. Gorilla Doctors Co-Director Dr. Mike Cranfield and Capacity Development Coordinator Dr. Jean Bosco Nizeyi, also known as JBN, lead our efforts at the Wildlife and Animal Resource Management (WARM) Department within Makerere’s veterinary school. Over the years, Gorilla Doctors has helped renovate and build new facilities, sponsored public lectures and an annual field-training workshop for students, supported numerous graduate student research projects, developed curriculum, and donated equipment and supplies. JBN has been teaching at Makerere for over 15 years where he has mentored more than 70 veterinary and wildlife health students.
Several of his former students, including Dr. Benard Ssebide, Dr. Julius Nziza, Dr. Fred Nizeyimana, and Dr. Rachael Mbabazi are now full-time Gorilla Doctors employees. JBN helped other veterinary school graduates establish the Uganda Wildlife Veterinary Network, Uganda’s first-ever professional association dedicated to promoting research, conservation, partnerships and excellence among wildlife veterinarians in Uganda.
Currently, Gorilla Doctors are helping to advance WARM into a fully-fledged wildlife disease research and surveillance service center thanks to funding through the UC Davis PREDICT program, the Mountain Gorilla Conservation Fund, and Canadian Friends of MGVP. A large animal facility has been renovated and refurbished to expand laboratory, office, and lecture hall space, as well as create the region’s first dedicated wildlife biobank. With these new and improved facilities, students, veterinarians, and other scientists will be able to process, analyze, and store wildlife biological samples collected for research and during disease outbreak investigations.
Gorilla Doctors mentors interns and volunteers enrolled in veterinary medicine or animal resource management degree programs at African universities to work on projects in Rwanda. Students gain valuable field and laboratory skills that can help them secure good jobs after graduation. Gorilla Doctors has gone on to hire several former interns, including Drs. Jean Bosco Noheri and Olivier Nsengimana. Gorilla Doctors is currently helping seek support for upgrading the curriculum and teaching at veterinary schools at the University of Lubumbashi in the DRC and Umutara Polytechnic University in Rwanda.
Rwandan Primary Schools
Gorilla Doctors collaborates with the non-profit organization Art of Conservation (AoC) to promote education on improving wildlife and community health in primary schools bordering Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. Our veterinarians perform demonstrations showing how and why mountain gorillas are treated for sickness and injury for grade school students enrolled in AoC’s extracurricular conservation and health education program. Using masks, stethoscopes, a compressed air gun, and empty darts, the veterinarians and children simulate gorilla health interventions. During discussions, students learn that becoming a Gorilla Doctor is a possible career path. Following our visit, AoC students create drawings and paintings depicting themselves as Gorilla Doctors.
Continuing Education for Staff
Gorilla Doctors supports its staff in seeking to refine their skills and learn new techniques through attendance at workshops, conferences, graduate programs, and other educational opportunities. Within the last five years, Dr. Jean Bosco Noheri trained at the Indianapolis and Maryland Zoos (February 2011), Dr. Eddy Kambale spent July 2011 working at the California National Primate Research Center at UC Davis, and Dr. Fred completed a 4-week training stint at the Sam Center in April 2012. In November 2011, Dr. Jean-Felix Kinani completed his Masters of Field Epidemiology at the School of Public Health, University of Rwanda and in May 2014 Jean Paul Lukusa finished his Masters in Public health. Dr. Olivier is currently studying for a long-distance MVetSci in Conservation Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland and is expected to graduate in 2015.