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Field Observation: Ludwig Seifert, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda

Feature Story
Posted on Apr, 26 2011

Ludwig Seifert with map


At Queen Elizabeth National Park it is 11 P.M. and while most people are asleep, Ludwig Siefert, is just getting started. Siefert is a wildlife and animal veterinarian for the Wildlife & Animal Resources Management (WARM) Department of Makerere University in Uganda, Africa. As team leader of the Uganda Large Predator Program (ULPP) his job is to monitor the health of all animals that roam the National parks but of predators in particular. On this evening Siefert is headed out to check the locations of the lions. Locating the lions is a task made easier by the tracking collars that Ludwig and students from the Experience Uganda Study Tour have placed. Tonight a group from the Distance and Continuing Education office at North Dakota State University, Fargo, is getting a first hand look at what these students see and do. Placing tracking collars on the lions is just one example of the hands on learning these students experience in Uganda.

Bouncing along the rough terrain on the roof of the LandRover is Siefert’s research assistant, James. James is holding what looks suspiciously like an old rabbit ear television antenna. This antenna-like object, despite the extreme darkness of night, is able to detect and locate the lions. On this evening several of the lions are located in a patch of trees and brush. Unable to see the lions, our attention quickly diverts to a hyena that appears about 25 feet from the vehicle.

As soon as Siefert sees the hyena he knows her name and exactly how she will respond to the vehicle. Above us James is throwing bits of bait to the hyena, which allows them to get a closer look at her to check for obvious signs of distress or injury. We are reassured of our safety by Siefert who explains to us “Madam will only come about three feet from the vehicle and will then back up”. Having just met Siefert, it does not take very long before one gets a sense of the passion he has for the animals he cares for. A passion he no doubt carries into his teaching.

Ludwig Seifert in the field

Siefert, known as the lion man, is originally from Germany where he received his undergraduate degree in veterinary medicine. During his undergraduate program a spark was ignited and he began to focus his studies on tropical veterinary medicine. After graduation he became one of only a few individuals chosen to work on a postgraduate certificate in Berlin. This program led him to Uganda, Africa for research but late during the Idi Amin rule he was forced to leave. He went on to earn his master’s degree in Tropical Animal Production from Goettingen University (Germany).

After his postgraduate studies he returned to Uganda in 1990 and began teaching epidemiology, preventive medicine and public health at Makerere University. As a founder member of its WARM-Department and ULPP he secured funding from a Dutch Zoo to study a possible outbreak in the lion population and to train the Ugandan veterinarians in how to deal with a potential outbreak. Initially the lions appeared to be suffering from canine distemper but his research revealed that they were actually being poisoned. This discovery reminded Siefert about the importance of educating people about the animals in Uganda and eventually opened the scope of his research interests to other large predators like the hyena.

In addition to assisting Uganda Wildlife Authority,Siefert holds a dual appointment at both Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda and is an adjunct instructor for North Dakota State University’s Department of Veterinary and Microbiological Sciences in Fargo. The partnership between these two universities has produced the Experience Uganda Study Tour. Experience Uganda is a unique opportunity for students and professionals in veterinary medicine to learn from and work side-by-side with Siefert. The program also offers hands on components for individuals in food safety, microbiology and other related fields. To participate in an upcoming Experience Uganda Study Tour or for more information, contact NDSU Distance and Continuing Education at 1-800-726-1724.