Collaborative Veterinary Training: Health Management and Capacity Building for African Primate Sanctuaries
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2006
Steve Unwin1,2, BSc, BVSc, MRCVS; Doug Cress2; Wayne Boardman2,3, BVetMed, MRCVS; Fabian Leendertz4, PhD; Wendi Bailey5, PhD; Benoit Goossens6, PhD; Marc Ancrenaz7; Felix Lankester8, BVSc, MSc, MRCVS; Dominic Travis9, DVM
1Chester Zoo, Northern England Zoological Society, UK; 2Pan African Sanctuary Alliance, USA; 3Zoological Society of London, London, UK; 4Robert Koch Institute, Berlin, Germany; 5Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, UK; 6Cardiff School of Biosciences, University of Cardiff, UK; 7Kinabatangan Orang-utan Conservation Project, Sabah, Malaysia; 8Pandrillus, Limbe Wildlife Centre, Cameroon; 9Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, IL, USA


The Pan African Sanctuary Alliance

The Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA), founded in 2000, is committed to providing the best facilities and care possible to captive African primates in Africa, while working toward the protection and conservation of the species in the wild.

Many sanctuaries operate in or protect national parks in Congo, Gabon, Nigeria, Uganda, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Gambia, while others in Cameroon, Zambia, Kenya and DRC coordinate with authorities to enforce wildlife protection laws. Each sanctuary is community based and dedicated to local employment and enterprise, and PASA members invest a combined $US 2.51 million into local economies each year through salaries, health care, education and the purchase of goods and supplies. As a result, PASA members enjoy a reputation for quality animal welfare and conservation that factors in the needs and concerns of the human community.

Increasing Sanctuary Veterinary Capacity: Building a Bridge Between Rehabilitation, Welfare, Reintroduction and Conservation

PASA sanctuaries offer a ‘portal’ into the wild under captive situations—a unique opportunity to assess and manage disease outbreaks before they spread, and this opportunity can only be maximized by collaboration with others working in the field. In addition, PASA sanctuaries are developing plans to reintroduce animals into the wild.

Current partners in this initiative are: Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA), North of England Zoological Society (NEZS), Zoological Society of London (ZSL), Great Ape Health Monitoring Unit (GAHMU), Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM), Davee Centre for Epidemiology and Endocrinology, Lincoln Park Zoo.

PASA, in cooperation with NEZS, ZSL and most of the other project partners have already developed other project components including:

1.  Annual veterinary training workshops since 2003 (held in Uganda—2003, Rep. Congo—2004, Cameroon 2005, Sierra Leone 2006)

2.  Creation of a Primate Veterinary Healthcare Manual in both English and French, hardcopy and on CD, freely available to anyone working with primates in Africa

3.  Conducting field pilot programmes in disease investigations with GAHMU and LSTM, as a basis for a larger-scale project

4.  Organisation of Defra-funded African Primate Reintroduction Workshop, held in April 2006, with IUCN, to review and refine specific protocols for release of rehabilitated primates from PASA sanctuaries

5.  Individual sanctuaries involved with local communities in ongoing dialogue regarding reintroduction plans

6.  NEZS has operated staff education exchanges (veterinary and husbandry) with PASA sanctuaries since 2003

This new initiative aims to build on this work to establish high-quality, local veterinary capacity in Africa to support the reintroduction of primates by:

  • Building capacity by recruitment and extensive training to African wildlife veterinarians in preventive health, disease investigation, health monitoring and risk assessment techniques in wild and captive primates as part of reintroduction programs
  • Developing non-invasive monitoring techniques for significant and emerging infectious diseases of both animals and human staff in sanctuaries, in pre-release quarantine and for post-release monitoring
  • Developing an information-sharing process between PASA sanctuaries, international research institutions, zoos and national wildlife administrators to improve procedures for reintroductions
  • Establishing sanitary guidelines to be implemented within sanctuaries in preparation for reintroduction programmes

This project introduces new elements such as the Great Ape Health Monitoring Unit (GAHMU), which is housed at the Robert Koch Institute in Germany. GAHMU was established in 2004 in order to provide veterinary and diagnostic support to great ape projects through Africa and Asia. Even though GAHMU is focused on health problems in wild great apes, it offers diagnostic support to this PASA initiative and has been involved in previous veterinary training done within PASA, including workshops, individual sanctuary diagnostic programmes, etc. GAHMU operates in cooperation with the Wildlife Conservation Societies ‘Field Veterinary Programme’ and the ‘Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project’. This network aims at understanding diseases and disease transmission in wild great apes.

The responsibilities of the various partners will be:

1.  NEZS will be project leader and central coordinator for all parties, including arranging and coordinating advertising for employment of two veterinary coordinators; consultation on selection, instruction, and assessment of six veterinary trainees.

2.  GAHMU will be running routine laboratory diagnostics and outbreak investigation.

3.  ZSL will provide logistic and technical project support; consult on selection, instruction and assessment of veterinary coordinators and veterinary trainees.

4.  PASA will supervise drafting and implementation of the Management Plan for Sanctuary Reintroductions in cooperation with IUCN in April 2006. They are involved in all stages of this project, including purchasing of veterinary equipment, implementation and running of annual veterinary workshops, coordination between sanctuaries and liaising with regional and national governments. An existing relationship with Davee Centre for Epidemiology and Endocrinology at Lincoln Park Zoo (Chicago, IL, USA) will contribute to in-situ training of epidemiology and disease risk analysis.
PASA members in Cameroon and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will serve as host organizations; others will provide diagnostic samples, logistic support, and veterinary staff, where available. The 14 sanctuaries based in the eight host countries are:

    • Limbe Wildlife Centre (Cameroon)—veterinary hub, workshop host
    • Lola Ya Bonobo Sanctuary, (Kinshasa, DRC)—veterinary hub, workshop host
    • HELP—Congo, Tchimpounga (Rep. Congo), Tacugama (Sierra Leone), CWAF, Sanaga Yong (Cameroon), Pandrillus, CERCOPAN (Nigeria), Centre for Chimpanzee Conservation (Guinea), Ngamba Island (Uganda), Projet Protection des Gorilles (Gabon and Rep Congo), Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Association (Gambia)
    • PASA members in other countries will play a support role

5.  Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine will provide in-situ parasitologic analysis of collected blood and fecal samples, plus in-situ training in these techniques to the veterinary trainees. They will also provide a logistic support and advisory role.


The transformation of PASA sanctuaries over the last 5 years from rehabilitation and welfare centres for orphaned African animals, to catalysts for conservation in their regions has been impressive and successful. The current project is seen as one of the most important components of the increased conservation role PASA is playing on most of its sites.


Speaker Information
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Steve Unwin, BSc, BVSc, MRCVS
Chester Zoo
Northern England Zoological Society

Pan African Sanctuary Alliance

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