WALKING WITH GORILLAS with Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka | S2E36


“We share over 98% genetic material with gorillas so we can easily make each other sick. we have to be so careful that they don’t pick up human diseases because they may find it harder to fight them.” 

Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka is a vet, conservationist, and founder of Conservation through Public Health. Join  us this week on Talking Apes where she tells us about her new book Walking with Gorillas, which chronicles her journey towards becoming Uganda’s first-ever wildlife veterinarian, and details her innovative approach to gorilla conservation.

Gladys’s work has been revolutionary in the field of gorilla protection. She recognized early on that the health of the local human populations was closely intertwined with the health of the gorillas living in the nearby forests when she ascertained that zoonotic and anthroponotic infections were jumping between the animals and people surrounding Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

In 2023 she co-founded award-winning NGO, Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH), with her husband. The organization deploys a novel approach known as ONE HEALTH which  focuses on the interconnectivity of human, animal, and environmental health. CTPH’s numerous programs work with local communities to improve access to basic healthcare services while promoting conservation awareness and sustainable livelihoods; in turn protecting the health of nearby gorillas.

You need to address human and wildlife health together in order to have holistic outcomes.”

One Health is being recognized in the conservation community as a viable way to achieve sustainable development.”

Gladys detailed some of the difficulties she initially faced as, not just the first woman, but first ever individual tackling the role of wildlife veterinarian in Uganda. Her determination to succeed broke barriers and has paved the way for future generations of female conservationists in Uganda and across the African continent.

“Conservation is about understanding that people are part of the equation.”

Gladys and CTPH’s approach to gorilla conservation is recognized as an effective model for other programs around the world. Her focus on the links between human and animal health and wellbeing has been instrumental in promoting sustainable conservation practices that benefit both people and wildlife.

Our episode with Gladys is the closing chapter of our special March 2023 zoonosis and disease ecology month. You can find all of the other episodes in this series exploring scary viruses, animal infections, and pandemics here.

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Book cover for Walking With Gorillas


Conservation through Public Health website.

Click here for upcoming  live events for Walking with Gorillas.


Click here to learn about CTPH’s incredible project, Gorilla Conservation Coffee which supports local coffee farmers living close to fragile gorilla habitat.

gorilla conservation coffee logo