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Walking With Gorillas: The Journey of an African Wildlife Vet (Hardcover)
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An Inspiring Memoir, for Fans of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Frans De Waal.
In her enchanting memoir, Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, Uganda’s first wildlife veterinarian, tells the remarkable story from her animal-loving childhood to her career protecting endangered mountain gorillas and other wild animals. She is also the defender of people as a groundbreaking promoter of human public health and an advocate for revolutionary integrated approaches to saving our planet. In an increasingly interconnected world, animal and human health alike depend on sustainable solutions and Dr. Gladys has developed an innovative approach to conservation among the endangered Mountain Gorillas of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and their human neighbors.
Walking with Gorillas takes the reader on an incredible personal journey with Dr. Gladys, from her early days as a student in Uganda, enduring the assassination of her father during a military coup, to her veterinarian education in England to establishing the first veterinary department for the Ugandan government to founding one of the first organizations in the world that enables people to coexist with wildlife through improving the health and wellbeing of both. Her award-winning approach reduced the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on critically endangered mountain gorillas.
In the face of discrimination and a male dominated world, one woman’s passion and determination to build a brighter future for the local wildlife and human community offers inspiration and insights into what is truly possible for our planet when we come together.
About the Author
2022 Edinburgh Medal recipient, National Geographic Explorer, and winner of the Sierra Club Earthcare Award, Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka has been a life-long champion of wildlife, from the early days of looking after stray animals at home, to setting up a wildlife club at school. As an African woman growing up in a male dominated society, she found the determination and courage to overcome the many obstacles to her gender to become Uganda’s first wildlife vet, treating the critically endangered mountain gorillas of Bwindi National Park. From there, she founded her non-profit, Conservation Through Public Health, a systems-changing policy of making human health a priority to assure the health of wildlife, and the social enterprise, Gorilla Conservation Coffee to protect endangered gorillas, create health and prosperity for the local human communities, and be a caretaker for our planet. She lives outside Kampala, Uganda, with her husband and sons.
“I recommend this book to everyone interested in conservation, alleviating poverty, and the role of women in society. But perhaps most importantly it is a truly inspiring story of how one determined and dedicated woman overcame many setbacks and faced many dangers to follow and realize her dream.”—Jane Goodall, PhD, DBE and UN Messenger of Peace (from the foreword)
“This uplifting debut by conservationist Kalema-Zikusoka reflects on her upbringing in Uganda and career as a wildlife veterinarian. Born in Kampala, Uganda, in 1970, the author was two years old when her father, a former cabinet minister, was abducted and murdered by the forces of then-president Idi Amin. She recounts devoting herself to her education and enrolling at the University of London Royal Veterinary College, becoming at age 26 Uganda’s first veterinarian specializing in wild animals. Vivid anecdotes detail the sometimes gritty nature of her work with endangered mountain gorillas, as when she describes using sugar to help reduce swelling around a gorilla’s prolapse. Through her work, she became “convinced that you couldn’t keep the gorillas healthy without improving the health and well-being of the people with whom they shared their fragile habitats” and began studying disease transmission between humans and primates. That research, she relates, enabled her to successfully advocate for Uganda’s adoption of the “One Health” approach to conservation, which recognizes that human hygiene and health lead to better welfare for plants and animals. The heartwarming narrative testifies to the good that one person can achieve and illuminates the complex interdependence between human and their environments. Admirers of Jane Goodall will love this. (Feb.)—Publishers Weekly
“Her zeal for animals and gorillas in particular, as witnessed in this book, have lead Gladys to ground breaking innovations in conservation winning her global awards. This is an awe-inspiring walk by a remarkable lady who stands to be counted among women of incredible determination and purpose.” —HRH Nnabagereka, Sylvia Nagginda Luswata, Queen of Buganda Kingdom, Uganda
“We eight billion humans are in a turf war with all other living species, one so lopsided that co-existing with them might seem a lost cause—until you meet Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka. Her miraculous career, engagingly recounted here, has meant salvation for some of our rarest primate cousins and an inspiring reminder for us Homo sapiens of what imagination and persistence can accomplish,whatever the odds.”—Alan Weisman, author,The World Without Us andCountdown
“Her vivid narration of the special relationship she has been able to cultivate with nature will leave you captivated and in an intense trance as she transports you to the deep woods of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and on an excursion that you will never forget.”—Kaddu Sebunya, CEO African Wildlife Foundation
“With unwavering drive and passion, she transformed a childhood love of animals into a career as Uganda’s first wildlife veterinarian and one of Africa’s leading conservationists. Filled with adventure and told with candor and heart, Walking with Gorillas is an extraordinary story of an extraordinary life.”—Thor Hanson, author ofHurricane Lizards and Plastic Squid,andThe Impenetrable Forest:My Gorilla Years in Uganda
“Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka is a true force of nature. Her riveting story of growing up in Uganda and overcoming challenges to pursue a veterinary profession, reads almost like fiction—full of adventure, drama, passion, and lots of big, furry primates.” —Meg Lowman, National Geographic Explorer and author of The Arbornaut: A Life Discovering the 8th Continent in the Trees Above Us
“In one of the world’s most challenging environments, Dr. Gladys has put her life on the line to protect one of the world's most spectacular—and spectacularly threatened species, the mountain gorilla. A story which will inspire everyone, everywhere!”—Dr. Mark Plotkin, The Amazon Conservation Team, author of Tales of a Shaman’s Apprentice
“A concise and compelling autobiography, from a resilient ‘bridge-builder’: Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka. It has been said: ‘When you build bridges, you get walked on from both sides,’—so true for Gladys who has faced prejudice from her own culture, for being a woman and for being African. But Gladys is a trailblazer, risk-taker and innovative. We all share this planet and it takes a person like Gladys to reimagine conservation and build bridges between culture and communities so that we all survive together. Gladys is my hero, Uganda’s hero, Africa’s hero, and the world’s hero.”—Catherine Kreutter, author of Old Mzee books
“Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka is one of Africa’s greatest conservation ecoheroes. Her work on mountain gorillas and her innovative approaches linking this essential conservation activity with the health of human communities living in close proximity is truly ground-breaking and serves as a model for other projects around the world. It is wonderful to now have her story told in her own words in this inspiring and delightful new book.”—Russell A. Mittermeier, Ph.D., Chief Conservation Officer, Re:wild (formerly Global Wildlife Conservation)
“Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka's pioneering efforts to save endangered gorillas by improving local human health have been an inspiration to conservationists around the world. Her new memoir details this incredible journey, including the adversity she had to overcome and what she's learned along the way. She artfully illustrates the complexities of conservation, sheds light on how protecting nature helps us protect ourselves, and offers insights that are applicable to conservation programs worldwide. I strongly recommend this book!”—Rhett Butler, Founder and CEO of Mongabay
“Walking with Gorillas is an inspirational account of one veterinarian's unwavering effort to prevent disease spillover by promoting a "One Health" approach and always, above all, listening and prioritizing local community members’ voices to create a better world for humans, animals and nature. This decade began with grave reminder of the danger of diseases jumping from animals to people and back, something Dr. Gladys has been committed to protecting us and wildlife from during her entire professional life.”—Dr. William Karesh, Author Appointments at the Ends of the World, President, World Organisation for Animal Health Working Group on Wildlife
“Uganda deserves to be better known for its astonishing wildlife. And I can think of no better guide than the nation’s first wildlife veterinarian. Meet Dr. Gladys and enter the incredible adventure that has been her life." — Dr. Carl Safina, author of Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
“Infused with the remarkable spirit of purpose, compassion and innovative thinking that is synonymous with Gladys herself, Walking with Gorillas is an inspiring memoir that showcases the importance of community-based conservation through one of Uganda’s most determined voices for wildlife. A captivating look at the dangers that humans pose to our closest of relatives, this book gives a compelling insight into the role that healthcare and women in society play in the author’s pioneering ‘One Health’ approach – one that the future of conservation surely depends upon. Simply, a must-read.”—Edward Whitley, OBE, Founder of Whitley Fund for Nature, Author of Gerald Durrell’s Army
“Dr. Kalema-Zikusoka’s book, Walking With Gorillas, is a walk through the forests and landscapes of her life and the lives of those who have influenced her choices as a veterinarian, a leader, partner and mother. Her method for building community and improving methods for protection of the forest has not only had an impact on the survival of our closest relatives the great apes, it has added a chapter to our understanding of how to build a thriving relationship with nature. Her wisdom is what we urgently need as we meet the challenge of declining biodiversity and deforestation, pandemics and climate change. If the measure of a life is one’s legacy, Dr. Kalema-Zikusoka shows in her book that being part of a lineage is also important. Her learning from her forebearers while creating communities that live in harmony with all sentient beings is a model for public health, economic livelihoods and field science.”—Tom Cummings, Tallberg Foundation jury leader and Member Club of Rome, Chair, BLab Europe, Global Alliance for Banking on Values, Author of Leadership Landscapes