By Molly Feltner, MGVP Communications Officer

The MGVP aims to employ outstanding African veterinarians and mentor the next generation of wildlife health experts. To do so, we sponsor educational programs at 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 providers of mountain gorilla veterinary care.  Read on to learn about these efforts.

Drs. Mike Cranfield and Jean Bosco Nizeyi.Makerere University 

Since 1996, the MGVP has partnered with Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, to build up and support the top veterinary medicine and animal health programs in the Great Lakes region of Africa. MGVP Executive Director Dr. Mike Cranfield and Research Veterinarian 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, MGVP has renovated and built 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 will soon embark on his 15th year teaching at Makerere 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 MGVP employees. JBN helped other veterinary school graduates to create the Uganda Wildlife Veterinary Network, an association designed to promote research, conservation, partnerships and excellence among veterinarians in Uganda. 

Currently, we are working to transform WARM into a fully-fledged disease surveillance department thanks to funding from the UC Davis PREDICT program, the Mountain Gorilla Conservation Fund, and Canadian Friends of MGVP. We are renovating a large animal facility to add new laboratories, office space, and a modernized lecture hall, as well as  installing the region’s first wildlife bio bank. With these new and improved facilities, students, veterinarians, and other scientists will be able to process, analyze, and store biological samples collected during disease outbreak investigations.

Drs. Julius Nziza and Olivier Nsengimana collect samples from bats.

Other Universities

The MGVP accepts 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. The MGVP has been able to hire several former interns, including Drs. Jean Bosco Noheli and Olivier Nsengimana.

MGVP is currently seeking funding to help upgrade the veterinary schools at the University of Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Umutara Polytechnic University in Rwanda.

An Art of Conservation Student prentends to be a Gorilla Doctor. (Photo: Art of Conservation)Rwandan Primary Schools

The MGVP 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 to 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

The MGVP funds employees seeking to refine their skills and learn new techniques through attendance at workshops, conferences, graduate programs, and other educational opportunities.

This past year, Dr. Jean Bosco Noheli trained at the Indianapolis and Maryland Zoos in February, while Dr. Eddy Kambale spent the month of July working at the California National Primate Research Center at UC Davis. In November, Dr. Jean-Felix Kinani completed his Masters of Field Epidemiology at the National University of Rwanda.

Please consider supporting MGVP by making a secure online donation. Every dollar you give goes to directly supporting our gorilla health programs and One Health initiative. Thank you for your generosity.