Since 1997, the authors have worked together on developing a health care program for confiscated orphaned chimpanzees brought to the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC) in Entebbe. The initial project in 1997 involved a chimpanzee health care workshop in which 13 chimpanzees were immobilized for physical examinations, dental work, vaccinations, tuberculin testing, and routine bloodwork. Participants included veterinarians involved with care of chimpanzees in Uganda as well as veterinarians affiliated with the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project in Rwanda and Uganda. Goals of the workshop were to provide health screening of UWEC chimpanzees before moving them to a new exhibit, and to provide hands-on experience with great ape immobilization and health care for Ugandan and Rwandan veterinarians.
In 1998, the second phase of this work was to move 23 chimpanzees from UWEC to Ngamba Island in Lake Victoria. The chimpanzees were released into a semi-free-ranging situation on the island. Prior to the move to this ecotourism site, 23 animals, including some from the original group, were immobilized for health examinations, dental work, tuberculin testing, vaccinations and bloodwork. Immobilization protocols using either tiletamine and zolazepam (Telazol,® Fort Dodge Animal Products, Fort Dodge, IA 50501 USA) or medetomidine (Orion Corp., Orion-Farmos, Expoo, Finland) & ketamine (Fort Dodge Animal Products) were used and arterial blood gases were compared between the two protocols by sampling all animals at initial immobilization time and every 10 min thereafter for 30 min.
Currently chimps are supplemented with food twice daily at one end of the island, which ensures that the animals emerge from the forest at these times and can be visualized by tourists standing on an observation platform. A holding area has been constructed in this area for new chimps being gradually introduced to the island group, as well as for temporary housing of animals needing medical attention.
In July 2000, the authors collaborated with Drs. Jonathan Sleeman, Richard Wrangham, and Gladys Kalema in organizing a workshop for monitoring the health of wild chimpanzee populations at Kibale National Forest. Over 35 participants attended representing veterinary and park staff as well as behavioral researchers from Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania. Lectures and wet-labs were held discussing disease patterns among chimpanzee and human populations, utilization of urine and fecal samples, and necropsy protocols.
We would like to acknowledge support of several grants from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium for Dr. Josephine Afema’s travel to the United States to work with Dr. Ray Wack and Dr. Karen Kearns at the Columbus Zoo, and to attend AAZV conferences.