The University of California, Davis has just launched a program called “One Health” to conserve the world’s 740 mountain gorillas in central Africa.
One Health joins forces with the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project to conserve the gorillas by focusing on the gorillas’ health as well as issues of the communities in the surrounding areas — namely, human health, livestock health and the agricultural industry.
Kristen Gilardi, leader of the program, explains, “The concept of ‘One Health’ — that human, animal and environmental health are inextricably linked and should be considered holistically — is a core principle of the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center.”
Disease is the number one killer of mountain gorillas, so the program will focus on improving medical care for them. In addition, it will work on nutrition and health programs for the surrounding human communities, and help improve the health of livestock, a main source of income for the communities’ residents. The gorillas and citizens live so close together that the health of one group impacts the other.
Mountain gorillas are not held in captivity, but they are an important boost to the economies of various nations because of ecotourism. Approximately 2000 to 3000 tourists visit annually. While tourists consume resources, the gorillas’ economic value provides an incentive to governments to invest in their survival.
The Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project has had remarkable success in the past. It has worked with the Rwandan, Ugandan and Congolese governments to take action against poaching and to conserve the gorillas’ habitat. Over the past ten years, the mountain gorilla population has increased by 17 percent, making it the only wild ape to have its numbers rise. With One Health on board, those numbers will hopefully increase even more.