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NC State Veterinary Master’s Graduate Honored for Wildlife Conservation

Groundbreaking wildlife conservationist Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, who received her master’s degree in specialized veterinary medicine from the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine, is the recipient of the 2020 Aldo Leopold Award honoring outstanding contributions to the protection of mammals and their habitats.

Kalema-Zikusoka completed her zoological medicine residency at the CVM in 2003. Soon after, she founded Conservation Through Public Health, a nonprofit focused on animal, human and ecosystem health in Africa through wildlife and livestock protection, community wellness initiatives and sustainable development. Kalema-Zikusoka serves as the chief executive officer of CTPH, based in her native Uganda.

The organization is particularly noted for its dedication to protecting Africa’s endangered mountain gorillas and preventing disease transmission between people and gorillas, cattle and buffalo within local communities. 

The award is given by the American Society of Mammalogists and named for legendary conservationist Aldo Leopold, considered the father of wildlife ecology and proponent of the “land ethic,” which emphasizes humankind’s “moral responsibility” to the natural world.

“I am greatly humbled to receive this prestigious award, which has been received by truly inspiring conservationists, some of whom have mentored me,” Kalema-Zikusoka said in a statement.

Mountain gorilla

Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka and Conservation Through Public Health are particularly active in mountain gorilla conservation efforts.

Kalema-Zikusoka has become the face of conservation efforts in Uganda. At just 25, she was appointed the first-ever chief wildlife veterinary officer for the Uganda Wildlife Authority and led efforts to reintroduce wildlife to Ugandan national parks after a devastating civil war.

She is a National Geographic Explorer, has been honored by the Jane Goodall Institute and was recognized as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.

“Your continued work as a veterinarian, and in training young Ugandans for conservation, serve to broaden understanding and appreciation of wildlife, wildlife health, and their importance to conservation,” wrote Douglas Kelt, American Society of Mammalogists president, in a letter to the CTPH announcing the honor.

Kalema-Zikusoka’s residency at the CVM was overseen by Michael Stoskopf, professor of aquatics, wildlife and zoological medicine. The college pioneered the study and clinical practice of wildlife medicine within veterinary schools, widening the scope of zoological medicine and heightening its importance within the veterinary field to this day.

The college’s intensive zoological medicine residency is a three-year program, putting it on par with training for such traditional specialized veterinary fields as oncology and radiology.

Students who pursued zoological medicine at the CVM have gone on to lead zoos and aquariums, become epidemiologists and immunologists tracking and fighting infectious disease and conduct research guiding worldwide wildlife conservation efforts.

~Jordan Bartel/NC State Veterinary Medicine