Great Ape conservationists from around the world convened in Jackson Hole, Wyoming this past weekend for the 2013 Great Ape Summit ( The 4-day summit was a collaborative effort by the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP), and the Arcus Foundation. Gorilla Doctors Co-Director Dr. Kirsten Gilardi attended the summit, joined by several Gorilla Doctors advisors and partners. Here is Dr. Gilardi’s account:

“The goal of the Summit was to bring experts from around the world to brainstorm on opportunities for advancing great ape protection and conservation.  Several panels discussed threats, challenges and solutions, such as: Illegal Wildlife Trafficking; Industrial-Scale Agriculture and Extractive Industries; Tourism, Captive Apes in the USA, Technology and Conservation, Extreme Conservation, and … Health and Disease.

A Gorilla Doctors Science Advisor, Dr. Dominic Travis, participated on the Health and Disease panel (with Jane Goodall listening from the audience!), and he spoke for all of us when he made the following points about key health issues in great ape conservation during the panel discussion:

  •  The health of great apes is inextricably linked with tourists, local communities, and their domesticated animals.
  • Given that great ape and human health are inextricably linked, do we try to manage/control disease or not?  – Do we do whatever we can to protect them, which involves intense monitoring, intervention, contingency planning, and research, or do we let “nature take its course”, and focus on responding to disease threats only once disease becomes a problem?
  • Great ape health is about more than just great apes – a One Health approach to great ape conservation is essential: local communities have to be involved, approaches must be multidisciplinary, and partnerships are essential.

For me, the Summit was a really wonderful opportunity to spend time with Gorilla Doctors advisors like Dominic Travis, Kelly Stewart, Martha Robbins, Lynne Gaffikin, and Tony Mudakikwa. As well, it was wonderful to have the opportunity to spend time with friends and colleagues, including: Anna Behm Masozera (IGCP Director), Liz Macfie (Great Ape Consultant and past Gorilla Doctors veterinarian), Andrew Seguya (Uganda Wildlife Authority Executive Director), Tara Stoinski (Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International), Gladys Kalema Zikusoka (Conservation Through Public Health Executive Director), Praveen Moman (Volcanoes Safaris), Lilly Ajarova (Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary) and Pamela Turner (author of the book Gorilla Doctors!).  

Pam Turner, Kelly Stewart, Kirsten Gilardi, Lynne Gaffikin, Dominic Travis, and Gladys Kalema Zikusoka at the 2013 Great Ape Summit in Wyoming.

It was an absolute privilege to meet some of the heroes of the great ape conservation world for the first time: Liz Williamson (IUCN Species Survival Commission Section on Great Apes), Doug Cress (UNEP Great Apes Survival Partnership), Richard Wrangham (Harvard University and Founder of the Kibale Research Project), Julie Sherman (Pan-African Sanctuary Alliance), Annette Lanjouw (Arcus Foundation) and Russ Mittermeier (Conservation International). 

Gorilla Doctors was asked to contribute to the Notes from the Field sessions on the last day of the Summit, as an example of a program that has been so important in contributing to gorilla conservation. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay in Jackson for the whole summit due to schedule constraints, but rest assured that I sure would have LOVED talking about our incredibly dedicated team of veterinarians and staff, on the ground in Rwanda, Uganda, and DR Congo, who are doing all the hard work to ensure the survival of mountain and Grauer’s gorillas!”