Wildlife Veterinary Medicine in Africa
Almost the entire Gorilla Doctors staff is comprised of African veterinarians, technicians, and administrators. Gorilla Doctors mentors the next generation of wildlife health experts in the region by sponsoring educational training programs in close cooperation with African schools and universities, and by supporting its staff in professional continuing education. By investing in training, Gorilla Doctors is aiming for a point in the future when in-country veterinarians and professional staff are the primary and sole providers of life-saving health services for eastern gorillas.
Drs. Noel and Methode conducting surgery in the Gorilla Doctors laboratory in Musanze, Rwanda.
Since 1996, Gorilla Doctors has partnered with Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, to support veterinary medicine and animal health programs in the Great Lakes region of east-central Africa. Gorilla Doctors Director Dr. Mike Cranfield and Capacity Development Coordinator Dr. John Bosco Nizeyi lead our efforts at the Ruth Keesling Wildlife Health Education and Research Center within Makerere’s veterinary school. Over the years, Gorilla Doctors has helped renovate 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. Dr. Nizeyi 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, and Dr. Fred Nizeyimana are now full-time Gorilla Doctors veterinarians. Dr. Nizeyi has 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 is helping to advance Makerere University’s WARM as a wildlife disease research and surveillance service center thanks to support from the USAID Emerging Pandemic Threats PREDICT project, the Mountain Gorilla Conservation Fund, and Mountain Gorilla Conservation Society of Canada (MGCSC). An abandoned facility has been renovated and refurbished to expand laboratory, office, and lecture hall space, as well as create the region’s first dedicated wildlife specimen 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. 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 DRC and the University of Rwanda.
Continuing Education for Staff
Gorilla Doctors supports its staff in seeking to build their skills and learn new techniques through attendance at workshops and conferences, and through enrollment in graduate programs. For example, in just the last five years, Gorilla Doctors staff have had the opportunity to engage in numerous special training and educational opportunities:
- Dr. Fred completed a 4-week primate medicine rotation at the California National Primate Research Center in Davis, CA and training in ultrasound diagnostics at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, MD in 2012.
- Dr. Eddy Kambale conducted a 4-week primate medicine rotation at the California National Primate Research Center at UC Davis in 2011.
- Dr. Jean Bosco Noheri receiving experiential training in zoological medicine at the Indianapolis and Maryland Zoos in 2011.
- Dr. Benard Ssebide completed a Wildlife Safe Capture and Translocation Course at Essex County College in Fairfield, New Jersey
Gorilla Doctors staff have completed the following advanced degrees with support provided by Gorilla Doctors.
- Dr. Olivier Nsengimana is currently conducting a long-distance Master’s degree in Conservation Medicine program at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland and is expected to graduate in 2015.
- Rwanda Administrator Schadrack Niyonzima completed his MBA at Bugema University in Kampala, Uganda in November 2014.
- Employee Health Program manager, Jean Paul Lukusa, finished his Masters degree in Public Health in May 2014.
- Dr. Jean-Felix Kinani completed his Masters of Field Epidemiology at the School of Public Health, University of Rwanda in November 2012. (Fees were paid by government of Rwanda, Data and research support provided by Gorilla Doctors).
- Dr. Benard Ssebide completed Master of Science in Wildlife Health and Management degree at Makerere University in 2007.
- Dr. John Bosco Nizeyi completed his PhD from Makerere University in 2005.
Innocent Rwego completed a Masters of Science in Wildlife Health and Management degree from Makerere University in 2004.
Rwandan Primary Schools
Gorilla Doctors collaborates with the non-profit organization Conservation Heritage-Turambe 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 to students enrolled in CHT’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, CHT students create drawings and paintings depicting themselves as Gorilla Doctors.
Dr. Noel shows Rwandan school children the dart gun used to administer medicine to wild gorillas.