An integrated health approach to the conservation of Mountain gorillas Gorilla beringei beringei



Conservation medicine, the medical practice that seeks to promote ecological health and well being of a defined habitat, functions at the intersection of animal, human and ecosystem health. It differs from classical public-health epidemiology and medicine in that it aims to protect and improve animal health and related ecosystems, in addition to human health. Zoonotic diseases and emerging diseases are of primary concern and are particularly important when Endangered great-ape populations are involved. The effective practice of conservation medicine demands an integrated cross-disciplinary team approach involving wildlife and livestock veterinarians, local physicians, public-health professionals, ecologists, government officials and communities. Common interests, improved data collection and economies of scale argue for combining health surveillance, data and delivery efforts. This team approach needs to be tailored to the infrastructure and sophistication of the host country's human and livestock/wildlife health systems. It is often, by default, the wildlife veterinarian(s) who coordinate(s) the integrated ‘one health’ approach because of their training in wildlife and livestock medicine as well as in zoonotic and emerging disease issues. This paper describes the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project's (MGVP Inc.) collaborative cross-disciplinary strategy for Mountain gorilla Gorilla beringei beringei conservation and the database system developed during the process.