Kampala. Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, Uganda’s first female wildlife veterinary doctor, has scooped one of the top conservation awards in the United States of America.
Dr Kalema, the founder of Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH), a non-profit organisation, becomes the second African to scoop the Sierra Club’s EarthCare Award, bestowed on individuals or organisations that have “made a unique contribution to international environmental protection and conservation”.
“The award is not only hers. Dr Kalema is a trailblazer. Her award energises not only women but all of us in conservation. We learn that there are people outside there who appreciate you whenever you do a good job,” Mr Sam Mwandha, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) executive director, said yesterday.
Mr Mwandha, with decades of experience in conservation, has worked closely with Dr Kalema who we could not reach by press time. He said Dr Kalema has done a lot of work in sensitising the public about zoonotic diseases and has started income generating activities for the people neighbouring protected areas.
“Her award is also good for tourism. There are people who have known Uganda and willing to visit through this award,” he said of the award that was given to Dr Kalema on Saturday in Denver, Colorado.
He added that Dr Kalema’s research work has broadened the understanding about zoonotic diseases (that can be transmitted from animals to people).
The first African recipient of the Sierra Club’s EarthCare Award was the late Wangari Muta Maathai, a Kenyan environmental political activist and a 1991 Nobel laureate.
The award was started in 1892 in San Francisco, California, by Scottish-American preservationist John Muir, according to information on the organisers’ website.
Mr Gaster K. Kiyingi, another conservationist, said “for Gladys to scoop that award is not an accident” but rather years of hard work.
“She is passionate about communities being able to live decent lives through ecological enterprises as exemplified by the Gorilla Conservation Coffee Project that she ran a few years ago. She is an Ashoka Fellow and winner of the Green Oscar Award 2009 and winning this befits the mighty woman of valour,” Mr Kiyingi said.
He added: “She has played a crucial role is establishing the Population, Health and Environment (PHE) network in Uganda and East Africa and this is a platform for discussing policy issues and concerns relating to population dynamics, health issues and the environment in general.”
About her organisation
The purpose. CTPH was established as a gorilla research clinic in 2005 in Bwindi. The centre, according to www.ctph.org/gorilla-conservation, has since three years ago “upgraded to a larger gorilla health and community conservation centre where samples from gorillas, livestock and people are analysed to test for zoonotic diseases…”