Uganda 2013 – The adventure continues

I must first apologize for how long it has been since I last wrote!  A lot has happened since then so I will try and give you a taste for what we have been up to in the last couple of weeks.

To start, I will let you all know the lesson I learned about rolling up mats.  We were visiting past beneficiaries in the village of Kikokwa one morning, and one of our first stops was at a lady named Vangi’s house.  When we got to her house she rolled out a bamboo mat for us to sit on.  After our discussion we got up to go check on her goats.  Thinking I was being helpful I began to roll up Vangi’s mat for her and asked her where she would like me to put it.  All the while Vivian (FAOC) and Vangi were giggling.  I handed Vangi the mat and asked Vivian what was so funny.  She informed me that rolling up somebody else’s mat means that you never want to come back and see them ever again!  I felt so bad and a little embarrassed.  Vangi on the other hand found it quite funny and at the community meeting later that day, Vangi would catch my eye and giggle some more.  Thank goodness Vangi took it as a light hearted mistake!

Meet Vangi, my new friend.

On the weekend of June 1st we learned that it was a long weekend due to a holiday, which Vivian informed us was (what we thought we heard at least) ‘Mother’s Day’.  When it came to Monday, June 3rd there were TV programs on the streets broadcasting large celebrations and gatherings for this day.  It was also a day where the majority of people went to church.  Ilse was making conversation with a local that day and asked “Do you have a Father’s Day as well?”, but she received a confused look and no answer.  We thought maybe it was because he didn’t know much English.  Later on that day we met up with Vivian who asked us all if we had gone to church that morning.  We were surprised and didn’t realize that we should have gone to church on Mother’s Day, since it is not something that is commonly done in Canada.  At the end of the day as we discussed our Canadian Mothers Day and how it was different from here, we noticed online that Uganda was instead celebrating “Martyrs Day”!  Oh dear, yet another language barrier mix-up!  It was quite funny for us all and it made much more sense once we realized what was actually going on that day.

For the past week we have been in Queen Elizabeth National Park.  Our first day was spent in the field tracking lions!  We were with a fellow named James who is Dr. Siefert’s assistant. Dr. Seifert is a wildlife veterinarian who is deeply involved in community work in Uganda.  He is dedicated to improving the protection of wildlife species within the park by getting the community involved and finding ways for humans, livestock, and wildlife to coexist.  James used telemetry with radio collared lions we managed to find seven lions that day!  It was incredible to see them so close.  While in Queen, our dorms that we stayed in were right inside the park. On our second night there we realized what this really meant. Within a time span of one hour we saw a leopard walk beside our house, a herd of elephants walk right outside out door, and a huge hippo grazing behind our rooms!  It was certainly a night to remember!  We also saw water buck, wart hogs, banded mongoose, and water buffalo on a daily basis.

An unexpected visitor 🙂 Queen Elizabeth National Park

For the next three days at the park we helped out Dr. Emmanual and Dr. Zeyhle (a medical doctor doing his PhD and a parasitologist, respectively) with their research on Echinococcosus.  Echinococcus is a tapeworm and the lifecycle involves a definitive host (dogs) where eggs are produced by the adult tapeworms and an intermediate host (sheep, goats, or swine) where the hydatid cysts are formed.  People become infected by ingesting the eggs found in dog feces.  Humans are an ‘incidental host’, which means that we cannot pass on the parasite but can develop the hydatid cysts, which can cause issues as the cysts can grow very large.  We set up at different medical clinics and screened people using ultrasound to look for hydatid cysts.    It was interesting work and we were able to screen almost 400 people.

Sibling love

On our last day in Queen, we were lucky enough to spend the whole day with Dr. Seifert.  There was a radio collared lioness named Bridget that has been experiencing an eye problem, so our goal for the day was to find her, check to see if her eye was still sick, and dart her if needed to give the necessary treatments.  We located her within an hour and she was nicely in the open!  Dr. Seifert used his binoculars to get a really good look at her eye; he confirmed it needed treatment.  We drove a fair distance away from her to get the supplies ready.  We were shown how to load the dart with sedative and ensure the dart gun was in working order.  Once set up we drove back to find beautiful Bridget; she had moved but luckily was still in the open for us.  We parked 15 meters from her and Dr. Seifert then got set up in the front seat of the vehicle with the dart gun and aimed for her thigh muscles.  He made a perfect shot and when the dart hit she vocalized and looked around confused, wondering what might have bitten her.  She then walked slowly away and went down about 200 yards from our vehicle.  We drove up to her and after waiting a safe amount of time, Dr. Seifert ensured she was fully sedated by throwing a water bottle in her direction and then proceeding to poke her with a stick.  We rolled her onto a hammock and carried her to a shady area to perform our physical exam.  What an amazing creature!!!   After covering her eyes with a cloth, we took her temperature, checked her mouth, protracted each claw to check for infection, and examined her eye.  We also collected ticks, swabbed her mouth, and took blood (Ilse performed the blood sample) to check for Babesia, Rabies, and Filaria and Lechmaniasis, respectively.  Dr. Seifert gave her a long-acting antibiotic for her eye, so hopefully there will be improvements.  Once we finished checking her over, we moved her once more to a protected area in a thicket, poured water on her to ensure she didn’t overheat, and administered the reversal so she could wake up.  We drove a distance away to observe her coming out of sedation.  When she first lifted up her head she was holding the towel in her mouth that we had used for covering her eyes, it was a very cute sight!  All in all Queen Elizabeth National Park was a wonderful experience.

Bridget after being darted
Dr. Seifert teaching us his ways

Beautiful paws

Upon returning to Mbarara on Friday June 14th, we participated in an annual National holiday called the ‘Day of the African Child’.  Each year there is a new theme and this years was ‘Eliminating Harmful Social and Cultural Practices Affecting Children: Our Collective Responsibility.’  It is a day filled with activities, games, songs, skits, and speeches from different NGO’s and community members.  We had a lot of fun helping out with face painting, playing soccer, reading stories, and making friends.  The Foundation for Aids Orphaned Children (FAOC) along with their partners played a huge role in organizing the event and they did an amazing job.

Face paints!

Fun with the kids
Ilse and I receiving an appreciation certificate for VWB

If you want to read more details about Echinococcus and some of the social issues occurring in Queen Elizabeth National Park, please copy and past the link below to read Devon, Tara, and Elad’s blog:


Until next time!