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Letters from Dr. Lukas in the Field

Letters from Dr. Lukas in the Field

Dr. Kristen Lukas, Director of Conservation & Science at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, recently went to Uganda! Check out the links on the side and the section below to read emails she has sent us.

June 4, 2014
Hello everyone,
It is always hard to leave a place as beautiful as Uganda and this time is no different. My final day trip was to Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary, a project of the Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust (CSWCT). The sanctuary was established in 1998 with the assistance of Cleveland Zoological Society so it was a real treat to finally visit a place about which I have heard so many excellent things over the years. Even better was that our friend, George Owoyesigire, and his beautiful wife joined me for the day.

We took a boat ride across Lake Victoria to reach the island and upon arriving were greeting by our guide and chimpanzee caretaker, Bruce Ainebyona. He provided a one-hour orientation to Ngamba Island sanctuary, including its mission to care for orphaned chimpanzees who are unable to return to their natural habitat. The 100 acre island is 95% forest so all 47 chimpanzees (maintained as one group) spend their days exploring the island. They approach the visitor area four times a day when supplemental feedings provide tourists and Ugandan residents with a view of this dynamic group. The sanctuary is not only a place of respite for chimpanzees who have suffered a great deal as infants, but it provides an exceptional opportunity for guests to learn about chimpanzee natural history and conservation. I can't say enough about how informed and passionate the caregivers were – it was very inspiring to see so much expertise among all of the staff members, some of whom had visited some of the best chimpanzee sanctuaries in the USA.

After returning by boat to Entebbe, George took me to a hidden gem of a place called "Uganda's Reptiles Village" where more than 50 rescued reptiles of 20 different species are on display to educate the community that can protect reptiles and conserve reptile habitats and fight against the extinction of reptiles.

I am looking forward to seeing everyone soon. Thank you so much to the Leiden Conservation Foundation, Cleveland Zoological Society, and Cleveland Metroparks Zoo for making my travel to the field possible. There are many opportunities for everyone to get involved in conservation in Uganda and I look forward to sharing more information upon my return. With so many things happening at the Zoo this spring, it is great to see the impact our Zoo and Zoo Society are having on conservation of apes across Africa and on building capacity in our partners devoted to wildlife conservation.

All the best, Kristen

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