Dr. James treating an injured rhino at Ziwa

A typical day in the field for me might include rescuing a snared elephant, collaring a lion or surveying mountain gorilla populations for the Ugandan and

 

Rwandan governments. Taking care of animals has been a part of  my life since childhood and my love for wildlife inspired me to become a veterinarian.

After graduating as a veterinary surgeon from Makerere University I became concerned about how oil exploration might affect wildlife, particularly the wellbeing of elephants. I believe that the oil industry has great potential to contribute to Uganda’s economic development, but at the same time the activities involved in exploration and development can have detrimental impacts on sensitive ecosystems.

Through my MSc degree in wildlife health and management at Makerere University, I learned about the increased stress and susceptibility to diseases of elephants as a result of human activity. By studying the stress hormones and parasite burdens of elephants, I gained an understanding of the long-term effects of human disturbances in Murchison Falls National Park.

Collecting blood sample from an elephant in Murchison Falls National Park 2020

But this is just one of my interests. I founded the Elgon Wildlife Conservation Organisation (EWCO) to help the cause of wildlife in Uganda. One of our key focuses is on amphibian and reptile conservation, which has been at the forefront of identifying and conservation of amphibian species and promoting knowledge of them in Ugandan communities. EWCO’s work has gained recognition from the Conservation Optimism, ATBC, and Amphibian Survival Alliance (which nominated Dr Watuwa as one of their future leaders of amphibian conservation).

I started my career in wildlife medicine and conservation by volunteering, and I would be grateful to give the same opportunity to others. That’s why EWCO  welcomes interns, volunteers and researchers to Uganda. If you are interested, visit our website and contact us for more information.

DETAILS OF EWCO’s PROGRAMS

EWCO is a registered grassroots nonprofit conservation organization in Uganda, working to ensure the delicate balance between environment, biodiversity conservation and sustainable development in indigenous communities around protected areas.

Our Mission

To promote biodiversity conservation through community engagement, recognising the importance of engaging people in protecting wildlife, while supporting sustainable development using a holistic and multi-disciplinary One Health approach, both of which are critical for the conservation of wildlife.

Our Vision

EWCO envisions a world where nature, wildlife and human beings co-exist peacefully.

Our Core Values

True to our vision we believe that people are an important part of any ecosystem. Without healthy and economically secure communities around our protected areas, the areas remain under threat from overgrazing, hunting and other threats.

EWCO uses a unique approach of conservation through community development to achieve our vision. We work to improve the quality of life in surrounding communities by providing education, health services, safe water, vocational training and sustainable resource use skills in these impoverished and most densely populated regions around protected areas in Uganda.

Our Objectives

To promote sustainable conservation of biodiversity, ecosystem health, and species genetic variation of protected areas in Uganda through community engagement, research, agro-forestry and advocacy.

To promote economic empowerment and entrepreneurship skills for women, vulnerable children and youth at household level through self-help projects, apprenticeship training and enterprise development for indigenous communities around protected areas in Uganda.

To promote sustainable conservation of natural resources for the well-being of humanity and sustainable development.

To promote gender education necessary for advancing gender equity and equality in all its forms in indigenous communities around protected areas in Uganda.

To provide support for research and ecological monitoring, education and information exchange related to local, national and global issues of biodiversity conservation and development.

Carrying out a health check on a rescued chimpanzee

Wildlife Research, Health Monitoring and Conservation

We aim to promote the conservation of wildlife with an emphasis on gorillas, elephants, amphibians and reptiles throughout the entire home range while addressing all ecosystem issues that sustain co-existence of wildlife, humans, and livestock. These include ecological studies of specific species, trans-boundary movements, migration corridors and human-animal conflicts, interactions between species, and climate change. Such studies are not science for the sake of science, but rather help pave the way for better-informed conservation management decisions and thus the sustainability of Africa’s wildlife and wilderness areas.

 

 

 

 

 

With a team in mountain gorilla census.

Anti-Poaching Initiatives & Support for Rangers to combat illegal wildlife crime

 

Hands-on management contributes to the survival of both individual species and their endangered habitats. EWCO supports a number of anti-poaching entities and assists in further management initiatives, such as offering logistical support to rangers to rangers in anti-poaching patrols, training rangers on using SMART software to monitor illegal activities in the parks and how to mitigate human-wildlife conflicts. We also work with known reformed poachers in Bwindi and Mgahinga Gorilla National Parks to engage them in meaningful alternative livelihood programs.

Community Health, Empowerment and Education

EWCO works in frontline indigenous communities bordering protected areas to promote access to health and family planning services along with education and entrepreneurship skills building. We promote access to safe water and sanitation services while also aiding economic empowerment.

Climate change mitigation initiatives

The occurrence of landslides and floods in East Africa has increased over the past decades with enormous Public Health implications and massive alterations in the lives of those affected. In Uganda, the Elgon region is reported to have the highest occurrence of landslides and floods making this area vulnerable. EWCO is working to initiate community projects aimed at mitigating landslides in this region and the country at large.

Amphibian Conservation

To promote the conservation of the amphibians and reptiles and their natural ecosystems and implement positive change in human attitudes towards the amphibian and reptilian diversity in Uganda.

JAMES WATUWA
Dr. James Watuwa is a wildlife veterinarian and conservationist who grew up in the Manafwa District of Uganda, where his love of animals began early in life. James volunteered at Uganda Wildlife Education Centre and was mentored by animal keepers who encouraged him to consider a career in veterinary medicine. Inspired, he earned his bachelor’s degree in veterinary medicine at Makerere University Uganda.

Throughout his five years of veterinary   school, he donated his time to the Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Centre (Entebbe -Zoo) helping to diagnose, treat, and medicate all zoo animals suffering from disease, injury and provided medical care to hundreds of rescued and endangered animals. He reprised this role helping to care for endangered mountain gorillas and other  wildlife when he served as wildlife Veterinarian at Conservation Through Public Health in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park , and  Uganda Wildlife Authority and in 2018  he  started working with International Gorilla Conservation Program as a team leader for the Bwindi Sarambwe mountain gorilla census, sweeping through forests, finding gorilla trails and night nests, and collecting gorilla fecal samples for analysis and currently as a zoo veterinarian at Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Centre.

For Dr. Watuwa James, a typical day #inthefield might include rescuing a snared elephant, collaring a lion or surveying mountain gorilla populations for the Ugandan and Rwandan governments. Taking care of animals has been a part of life since childhood and his love for wildlife inspired him to become a veterinarian.

In 2018, Dr. James Watuwa earned a Veterinary-track scholarship under the Wildlife Conservation Network Scholarship Program and this saw him complete his Master’s Degree of science in wildlife health and management.

While studying Dr. James Watuwa became concerned how oil exploration might affect wildlife with a focus on elephant well-being. Watuwa points out that the oil industry has great potential to contribute to Uganda’s economic development, but at the same time the activities involved in exploration and development can have detrimental impacts on sensitive ecosystems. Oil exploration within Murchison Falls National Park poses a threat to the African bush elephant’s habitat through degradation and fragmentation which may lead to increased stress and susceptibility to disease. Through his MSc degree in wildlife health and management at Makerere University his research is focused on quantifying stress hormones in elephants’ feces as an indicator of their physiological stress and parasite burden in order to measure the potential impact of the anthropogenic disturbances, oil exploration on elephant populations and to evaluate trends over time.
But this is just one of the many conservation projects that Watuwa is involved in through the Elgon wildlife conservation organisation (EWCO) that he founded to help the cause of wildlife in Uganda( https://www.elgonwildlifeconservation.org) with a mission to promote biodiversity  conservation through community engagement, recognizing the importance of engaging people in protecting wildlife, while supporting sustainable development using a holistic and multi-disciplinary approach both of which are critical for the conservation of wildlife.

Dr. James Watuwa  is dedicated to the conservation of all reptiles and amphibian diversity in Uganda by promoting the conservation of the amphibian and reptiles and their natural ecosystems and implementing positive change in human attitudes towards the amphibian and reptilian diversity in Uganda.

For example, EWCO’s amphibian and reptile conservation project has been at the forefront of identifying and conservation of amphibian species and promoting knowledge of them in Ugandan communities. EWCO’s work has gained recognition from the Conservation OptimismATBC, and Amphibian Survival Alliance, for which Watuwa was nominated as one of their future leaders of amphibian conservation.

When not at work, Dr. James Watuwa can usually be found taking care of his own menagerie of animals which includes birds, cats, dogs, fish, lizards, and hedgehogs.  He also enjoys nature walks, listening to music and just hanging out with family and friends Watuwa started his whole career in wildlife medicine and conservation by volunteering, and he would be grateful to give the same opportunity to others. The EWCO organization welcomes interns, volunteers and researchers to Uganda. It you are interested, please contact them and visit their website for more information: https://www.elgonwildlifeconservation.org/