Health Screening for Lwiro Sanctuary Staff through the EHP ProgramBy Gorilla Doctors Staff on Tuesday, September 29th, 2015 in Blog.
To reduce the risk of disease transmission between people and gorillas, Gorilla Doctors facilitates annual health screenings and follow-up care for those people who come in contact with the gorillas the most—the people who work tirelessly in the national parks to protect the gorillas. Each year, hundreds of rangers, trackers, researchers, and others who work in the parks participate in our Employee Health Program (EHP). The park staff’s family members can also receive health screenings and treatment through the program.
While Gorilla Doctors has offered the EHP program for people working in Volcanoes National Park, Virunga and Kahuzi-Biega National Parks, and the Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation in Bwindi in the past, this month, we spread the work to the Lwiro Sanctuary for rescued chimpanzees, just outside of Kahuzi Biega National Park in DRC.
A partner of Gorilla Doctors, Lwiro Sanctuary is home to 55 rescued chimpanzees and 75 rescued monkeys, all victims of the illegal wildlife trade in DRC. The sanctuary was established in 2002 by the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) to help address the issue of confiscated primates in need of rehabilitation. In addition to the rescue and rehabilitation of primates, Lwiro also provides conservation education to the local communities, facilitates research, community development, and health and sanitation projects.
The Lwiro team members fill a variety of roles, from primate caregivers, to guards, cooks and farmers.
Lwiro also employs a full-time veterinarian, Dr. Masunga. Drs. Eddy and Martin periodically assist Dr. Masunga on chimpanzee rescues or complicated cases. Most recently, Dr. Martin worked with Lwiro’s staff on the rescue and veterinary care of orphan chimpanzee Kindu.
Forty-four Lwiro staff members participated in the 2015 health screenings. Many of the staff members come into close contact with the rescued primate population at Lwiro. Keeping the staff healthy means keeping the chimpanzees and monkeys healthy. Physical exams were conducted and blood and other samples were collected to evaluate the staff member’s health, looking for HIV, malaria, Hepatitis and intestinal parasites. Each staff member had a consultation with a physician and had the opportunity to discuss their test results and subsequent treatment, if necessary.
Thanks to the Gorilla Doctors Employee Health Program, many of these conservation employees are given access to care that would otherwise be too expensive or too difficult to obtain. Gorilla Doctors’ EHP Manager, Jean Paul Lukusa, administers this program in conjunction with local hospitals, which provide the necessary facilities and medical staff.