MGVP approaches gorilla medicine from a “One Health” perspective—a belief that the health of the gorillas is inextricably linked to that of the entire ecosystem, including humans and other animal species. Research studies show that gorillas can become ill and even die as a result of coming into contact with zoonotic diseases transmitted by people and other animals. That means we can’t hope to keep the gorillas healthy without taking into consideration the health of the people and domestic animals who might come in contact with the gorillas.
To reduce the risk of disease transmission between people and gorillas, MGVP facilitates annual health screenings and follow-up care for those who come in contact with the gorillas the most—the people who work in the national parks. Each year, hundreds of rangers, trackers, researchers, and others who work in the parks participate in our Gorilla Conservation Employee Health Program (GCEHP). We currently offer this program for people working in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda; Virunga and Kahuzi-Biega National Parks in DRC; and for the staff of the Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation working in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Thanks to the GCEHP, many of these conservation employees have access to care that would otherwise be too expensive or too difficult to arrange individually. MGVP’s GCEHP Manager, Jean Paul Lukusa administers this program in conjunction with local hospitals, which provide the necessary facilities and medical staff.
Through this program,
- conservation employees receive annual physical exams including screening for intestinal parasites and diseases like TB and HIV;
- conservation employees receive vaccines for deadly diseases such the measles and polio as needed;
- sick employees are given treatment or referrals for additional care;
- HIV positive employees are linked with government programs that provide antiretroviral drugs;
- conservation employees with vision problems receive glasses;
- conservation employees take part in health education programs; and
- the spouses and children of conservation employees receive treatment for intestinal parasites and counseling about hygiene, family planning, and HIV prevention on a quarterly basis.
Last year, nearly 300 conservation workers participated in the full health screening program and more than 2,000 family members were able to take advantage our de-worming and health education programs. Much of the funding for the GCEHP is provided by the Arcus Foundation and the Houston Zoo.
You can follow the Gorilla Doctors health monitoring efforts on our Facebook page, where we post photos and notes from our monthly visits.
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.