Deep within the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park of Uganda, third-year UC Davis veterinary student Ryan Sadler spent Summer 2010 among half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas.
Working with Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, founder and CEO of Conservation Through Public Health, Sadler took part in the extensive tracking of Giardia spp and Cryptosporidium spp. Dysentery may be transferred between gorillas, livestock, and people, accounting for a great deal of the infant mortality cases in the surrounding community. Sadler focused on Cryptosporidium and Giardi as potential causes of these infections.
Because of the symbiotic nature of Ugandan culture, where animals and people live in close proximity, Sadler says he “gained a ‘one health’ perspective,” realizing that if he was to help conserve the gorilla population, he would first need to help educate the people.
Sadler began his day by collecting fecal samples from the night nests of the park’s gorillas. He made rounds collecting feces from the livestock of local farmers and owners. He also worked with hospitals to set up testing for humans.
Sadler says, “If I wasn’t taking fecal samples from the gorillas, I was going to different herds of livestock and educating farmers.” His continuous fieldwork paid off. After collecting and testing samples from 97 gorillas and 119 livestock animals--using the CTPH laboratory to carry out preliminary field tests--Sadler was able to draw a correlation between the ill-health of the residents and the parasites present in the fecal matter of the gorillas and livestock.
Sadler’s findings, he hopes, will help raise awareness about the interconnectedness of the ecological and human spheres of Uganda because he believes that improving the ways of the community is at the crux of the gorillas’ survival. Moreover, he states, “If we raise the standard of living, then the people will be able to appreciate the gorillas”—a solution easier said than accomplished, but one Sadler has made a possibility through his work in Uganda.
After completing his externship, Sadler recalls his most rewarding feats as being capacity-building and reliable results. Sadler set up a program that has continued to monitor animal health and shared the techniques that Ugandans can adopt. As for results, Sadler’s research, paired with the assistance of Conservation Through Public Health, has confirmed the notion that sharing resources is infectious, thus sparking the need for change and improvement in the lives of Ugandans.
Sadler describes his time in Uganda as a life-changing experience. “I grew a lot as a person, took on tasks that I wasn’t comfortable with, and figured out how to do things and improvise,” he says, crediting his adaptability to concepts that he learned and brought with him from the School of Veterinary Medicine.
This report was written by Alyson Salmon, a writing intern from the Department of American Studies.
Read Ryan Sadler's first-hand report here.
Find more international student experiences on the Web, Office of International Programs.