Thursday, 15 August 2013

Integrate Public Health in Wildlife

Veterinary experts have advised the Government of Uganda to incorporate public health in tourism programs to fight the outbreak of wildlife disease in National Parks.
Dr.Gladys Kalema Zikusoka, the founder of Conservation through Public Health (CTPH) said focusing on health in the tourism sector plays a vital role in curtailing the spread of disease. She said: "The country experiences outbreaks of disease especially in the National Parks. This is associated with the direct contact between human beings and wildlife. Many tourists and the local population do not know human diseases can be transmitted to wildlife."
Wildlife authorities should have strong mechanisms in place to integrate public health as a conservation tool to protect endangered species like the Gorillas. Kalema was speaking during the commemoration to mar 10 years in existence of CTPH. CTPH is a non-profit, non-government organisation founded in 2002. Its mission is to promote conservation and public health and improving primary health by improving public health care to people and animals in and around protected areas in Africa.
Kalema said addressing the issue of public health in communities surrounding National Parks where endangered species are found can reduce the outbreak of disease like tuberculosis, scabies and ebola among wildlife species. Some wildlife like the Mountain Gorillas have similar genes like human beings. the organization has managed to train local communities on early diagnosing of tuberculosis especially among students both in primary and secondary schools . Emphasis is on how to reduce TB prevalence in local communities in and around the Bwindi and Mgahinga conservation park.
"Under this model we have to strengthen primary and secondary prevention measures in wildlife by reducing threats of disease to wildlife through education on human and livestock transmission to and from wildlife. This has been achieved through training of the human and gorilla conflict resolution team and park staff in Bwindi, Mgahinga conservation area and Queen Elizabeth Park. We also sensitize tour operators on human and great ape disease transmission issues. In Uganda gorillas generate as much as $1,460,000 per year from tourism.
Dr. Andrew Seguya, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) Executive Director told EABW, integrating conservation through public health is a working model. UWA intends to introduce the model in National Parks across the country He said: "In Western Uganda the approach has succeeded. We appeal to the Government to support UWA and other NGOs through programs such as Conservation through Public Health. These should be implemented countrywide in all National Parks."

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