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Dr. Ernest Kalalizi

2022 Scholarship Recipient:

Master's programme in Wildlife Epidemiology and Disease Control, The University of Castilla- La Mancha (UCLM), Ciudad Real, Spain (September 2022-)

Dr. Kalalizi was born in 1994 in the village of Kabalole in the South Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Ernest credits his parents for enabling the family of seven children to attend school at a time when most children worked in artisanal gold mines, with little time for or interest in school.

Ernest was always impressed by nature and felt an “exaggerated love towards animals” having grown up next to cows, goats, chickens, rabbits, sheep, dogs, and pigs. The family were farmers and breeders.  Each of the children had specific jobs; his was to care for the goats.  When animals were sold, the income went to pay for their studies.  When animals became sick, many died as no one was available to treat them.  His parents believed he would become a veterinarian.

After primary school, Ernest moved to the town of Kaziba to stay with his paternal uncle.  He did not see his parents for the 6 years of high school.  He recalls helping the veterinarian who came out to see the animals that his uncle raised.  When he finally returned home, the few animals that were left were sold to enable Ernest to attend university. Dr. Kalalize graduated from the faculty of veterinary medicine at l’Université du Cinquantenaire de Lwiro in 2019.  Throughout his veterinary training, he developed an interest in wildlife. The university was close to Kahuzi-Biega National Park and the Lwiro Primates Rehabilitation Centre, where he would eventually work as an assistant veterinarian.

Upon hearing of his selection for a ConserVet scholarship, and that he would be attending a graduate degree programme in Spain, Ernest described feeling excited and grateful for he felt a dream was coming true.  He also tried to imagine the feelings of his parents that one of their children was going to study in Europe; they viewed it as a miracle.  His father told him that his prayers had been answered.  Sadly, he would not see his father again, as he passed away 3 months after Ernest’s departure for Spain; Ernest could not return home as it was during an examination period.

Dr. Kaliaizi’s research project involves looking for Mycobacterial tuberculosis DNA in the environments of the captive primates at the Lwiro sanctuary, the eastern lowland gorillas within the Kahuzi-Biega National Park, the people who work at the sanctuary, and park rangers.  He hopes to learn more about conservation in general and emerging infectious disease in particular and one day share with colleagues at both the Lwiro Sanctuary and Kahuzi-Biega National Park.  His plans include expanding his teaching role at his home university.

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