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Champions of the Earth: The Ugandan vet protecting people and wildlife

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Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, honored in the Science and Innovation category, was the first-ever wildlife veterinarian of the Uganda Wildlife Authority and is a recognized world authority on primates and zoonotic diseases

Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka this year’s Champion of the Earth for Science and Innovation, has spent three decades helping to safeguard some of the world’s rarest primates, including endangered mountain gorillas.

Much of Dr. Kalema-Zikusoka’s work has been in impoverished East African communities that border protected areas, where she has helped improve healthcare and create economic opportunities, turning many locals into partners in conservation.

Dr. Kalema-Zikusoka would become the first-ever wildlife veterinarian for the Uganda Wildlife Authority. There, she began to apply what was a new approach to working for wildlife – one that centered on improving lives and livelihoods in the remote villages that surrounded Bwindi.

Conservation Through Public Health, the organization she founded, has expanded its model of village health to protected areas near Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as to two non-protected areas of Mount Elgon National Park in Uganda. In addition to promoting hygiene and good sanitation practices, the teams also support family planning.

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Read the full story about Dr. Kalema-Zikusoka here.

Champions of the Earth

  • The United Nations Environment Programme’s Champions of the Earth and the Young Champions of the Earth recognize individuals, groups, and organizations whose actions have a transformative impact on the environment. Presented annually, the Champions of the Earth award is the UN’s highest environmental honor.
  • The United Nations General Assembly has declared the years 2021 through 2030 the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. Led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations together with the support of partners, it is designed to prevent, halt, and reverse the loss and degradation of ecosystems worldwide.
  • The UN Decade aims at reviving billions of hectares, covering terrestrial as well as aquatic ecosystems, and draws together political support, scientific research, and financial muscle to massively scale up restoration.
  • Visit to learn more.
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