Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH), a 20-year-old award-winning NGO, promotes biodiversity conservation by enabling people, gorillas and other wildlife to coexist through improving their health and livelihoods in and around Africa’s protected areas. CTPH has three integrated strategies: wildlife conservation, community health, and alternative livelihoods.
Wildlife conservation with a focus on gorilla health monitoring includes observation of clinical signs and monthly collection of gorilla fecal samples and when they are abnormal, which are analyzed for intestinal helminths. Interventions like deworming of humans and livestock are carried out where their parasite infection is high and spilling over to gorillas. Gorillas with severe clinical signs due to parasite infections are dewormed. Research on bacterial, viral, and protozoal diseases is also carried out at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP) and other protected areas in Uganda to optimize the health of wildlife, livestock, and people.
Community Health has a focus on One Health engaging and empowering community volunteers called, Village Health and Conservation Teams, to conduct behavior change communication on integrated health and conservation activities including hygiene and sanitation promotion of hygiene and sanitation, family planning and infectious disease prevention and control as well as reporting diseases in a timely manner.
CTPH through its social enterprise Gorilla Conservation Coffee, supports smallholder coffee farmers around BINP and other gorilla habitats to grow coffee, which is bought from them at a premium price. This helps to alleviate poverty and reduce reliance on the forest for food and fuelwood reducing threats to endangered gorillas and their habitats. CTPH also supports local communities by providing them with “Ready to Grow” seedlings. Gorilla Guardians, Community Animal Health Workers and Village Health and Conservation Teams are supported with group livestock income generating projects, which they reinvest into Village Saving and Loan Associations to motivate them as community volunteers.
CTPH being a pioneer in this One Health approach to conservation has played a tremendous role in conserving the endangered mountain gorillas and their habitat. The mountain gorilla is the only gorilla subspecies showing a positive trend in population growth from 650 in 1997 to 1063 in 2018 and was reclassified by IUCN from critically endangered to endangered. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is also an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area and a UNESCO World Heritable Site. Therefore, this approach has proven to be an effective strategy in promoting biodiversity conservation.