Workshop on Health Monitoring of Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) of Kibale National Park, Uganda
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2002

Terra Kelly1, DVM; Jonathan M. Sleeman1, VetMB, MRCVS; Karen Kearns2, DVM, DACZM; Gladys Kalema3, BvetMed, MRCVS; Josephine Afema4, DVM; Richard Wrangham5, PhD

1Wildlife Center of Virginia, Waynesboro, VA, USA; 2San Diego Zoo, San Diego, CA, USA; 3College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, USA; 4Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Centre, Entebbe, Uganda; 5Peabody Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA


Kibale National Park is a multiple use protected area that provides habitat for a chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) population of approximately 550.1 Chimpanzees are increasingly threatened in the wild due to habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching, and increased contact with humans. Due to the close taxonomic relationship between humans and great apes, there exists a high potential for disease transmission from humans to chimpanzees.3 The introduction of a pathogen to an immunologically naïve population could result in high morbidity and mortality, therefore, threatening the survival of this species.2 Given the potential for disease transmission and its consequences, monitoring the chimpanzee’s health is clearly necessary. Monitoring for diseases endemic to the chimpanzee population as well as detection of disease outbreaks are essential components of a health monitoring program. Early detection and management of disease outbreaks will minimize the negative impacts of disease on the endangered population. A health monitoring program has existed for mountain gorillas (Gorilla gorilla beringei) for at least 15 years ( To initiate a similar program for the chimpanzees of Kibale National Park a workshop on chimpanzee health monitoring was held at Makerere University Biological Field Station, Kibale National Park, Uganda, July 15–16, 2000. This 2-day workshop was intended to give field biologists/researchers, veterinarians, national park staff, and other interested parties training in noninvasive techniques that are useful in monitoring the health of free-living endangered primate populations. The course consisted of both lectures and practical demonstrations and included topics on the threats to chimpanzees from human diseases, postmortem examination of chimpanzees, human safety issues, noninvasive sample collection techniques, laboratory analysis techniques, visual monitoring of chimpanzees for signs of ill health, and anesthesia and care of confiscated chimpanzees. Participants included: veterinarians, students, and researchers from the United States; field staff from Kibale National Park; the District Veterinary Officer; the District Medical Officer; staff and researchers from other national parks in Uganda that contain chimpanzees; and park staff and veterinarians from Tanzania. A permanent field veterinary laboratory consisting of equipment to perform urinalyses, fecal examinations, and complete postmortem examinations was established at the Kibale Chimpanzee Project, Makerere University Biological Field Station, Kanyawara, Kibale National Park, Uganda. Reference intervals for urinary physiologic values in the chimpanzees of Kibale National Park were also established. During July and August 2000, 22 urine samples were collected from apparently healthy habituated chimpanzees from Kibale National Park by a midstream catch. The urinalyses were performed in the field and at the laboratory of the Kibale Chimpanzee Project within 12 hours of collection. The results are summarized in Table 1. The information gained from this program will assist with the noninvasive diagnosis of certain diseases in wild chimpanzees that will aid in prompt and effective decisions regarding the management of diseases in the population.

Table 1. Urinary reference intervals for chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii), Kibale National Park, Uganda


Normal range (n=22)


Colorless to light yellow (46%); yellow (54%)


Clear (90%); foamy (10%)

Specific gravitya

1.018±0.006; range, 1.005–1.035


Negative (100%)


Negative (100%)


Less than 1.0 mg/dl (100%)


Negative (100%); trace (14%); 30 mg/dl (23%); 100 mg/dl (14%)


8.5 (100%)


Negative (96%); low positive (4%)


Negative (100%)


Negative (91%); low positive (9%)


Negative (100%)

aValue expressed as mean ± standard deviation.


We thank the Uganda Wildlife Authority and the Uganda Council for Science and Technology for the permission to work in Kibale National Park, Uganda, and the staff of Makerere University Biological Field Station for their hospitality. This project was funded by Columbus Zoo, Wildlife Trust, Colorado State University, and the University of Tennessee.

Literature Cited

1.  Edroma, E., N. Rosen, and P. Miller. 1997. Conserving the chimpanzees of Uganda: population and habitat viability assessment of Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii. Entebbe, Uganda. Conservation Breeding Specialist Group, Apple Valley, MN.

2.  McCallum, H. and A. Dobson. 1995. Detecting disease and parasite threats to endangered species and ecosystems. Trends in Ecology and Evolution. 10(5):190–194.

3.  Ott-Joslin J.E. 1993. Zoonotic diseases of nonhuman primates. In: Fowler, M.E. (ed.) Zoo and Wild Animal Medicine Current Therapy 3. WB Saunders. Philadelphia, PA. 358–373.


Speaker Information
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Terra Kelly, DVM
Wildlife Center of Virginia
Waynesboro, VA, USA

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