NAIROBI, Kenya, May 27 – Ugandan veterinarian and primate expert, Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka has been shortlisted for the prestigious Tusk Conservation in Africa 2019 awards.
The Tusk Awards for Conservation in Africa organised by conservation charity Tusk Trust in association with Investec Asset Management is celebrated annually with several award categories.
Magnificent in both abundance and variety, Africa’s wildlife draws millions of tourists to the continent each year. But without the work of committed, grass-roots conservationists, many animals would cease to exist.
The Tusk Award for Conservation in Africa, sponsored by Land Rover, highlights such pioneering individuals who are emerging as leading conservationists.
Speaking about the awards, Prince William, Tusk’s royal patron, said: “As so much of the natural world continues to face the alarming and real threat of extinction it is vital, we recognise how much we owe to conservation’s unsung heroes whom the Tusk Awards shine a spotlight on.”
“Living alongside Africa’s precious wildlife means they each face huge challenges, but their bravery and determination to preserve all life on the planet gives me hope for the future.” Kalema-Zikusoka was first inspired to work with primates when her neighbours acquired a pet vervet monkey called Poncho. “I was fascinated by how similar his fingers and nails were to humans,” she said.
She was later employed to set up the veterinary department at as the first Veterinary Officer for Uganda National Parks, which later became the Uganda Wildlife Authority, and oversaw several wildlife translocations between national parks.
But it is her work with Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH) that has had the greatest impact on Uganda’s wildlife. In 1996, investigations led her to conclude that dirty clothing used for scarecrows in fields raided by gorillas was responsible for an outbreak of scabies; seven years later she set up the organization.
“I realised we cannot protect gorillas without improving the health of people who share their fragile habitat,” she said.
Her work involves educating communities about hygiene, family planning and wildlife. She said: “Our most recent livelihoods initiative is Gorilla Conservation Coffee where we give coffee farmers living around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park – including reformed poachers – a premium price for quality coffee, reducing their dependence on the forest for food and fuelwood to meet their basic family needs.”
Reflecting on her achievements, she highlights the changing attitudes of communities and improved health standards for both people and gorillas. Kalema-Zikusoka has been nominated alongside Kenyan Jeneria Lekilelei and Sengalese Tomas Diagne. The winner will be announced in November 2019 at a ceremony in London, where they will be presented with a £20,000 grant to further their good work.