The Community Moves Boulders

Lesanna Lahner, our new veterinary epidemiologist fellow, and I began our trip to Africa by landing at the Kilimajaro airport and driving to Arusha, Tanzania. Felix Lankester, Lincoln Park Zoo’s Director of Tanzanian Programs, picked us up, and after a few errands, we started for Serengeti National Park.


Members of the community pitched in to clear the mudslide, reminding us that the heart and soul of Africa is the community effort.

Things seem to be right on schedule until we arrived at the Mtoy Wa Mbo village. As we drove into town, we noticed a lot of standing water and then many vehicles (including buses and game-drive vehicles) parked along the road. Felix asked what was happening, and someone told us the bridge was out. (No traffic reports here to tell us the road was blocked!)

As we walked up, it was obvious there was a major problem. It had rained so hard the previous night that it caused a mudslide with many rocks and really large boulders. They completely blocked the bridge, but the good news was that there was already an earthmover clearing a path through. Also, the entire community was moving stones to help.


We took advantage of the delay to grab lunch after our travels. Lesanna and Felix are seen here.

We decided to use the delay to sit at a pizza point café and have lunch. At 4 p.m., there was actually a one-lane path through the boulders that connected us to the other side. After a mad dash to make it across, we were on our way to Ngorongoro Crater and on to Serengeti National Park.

Eventually, we arrived at the Lincoln Park Zoo “Disease House,” made dinner and planned our next day. We’d be heading west through the park to the Maswa village to see Anna Czupryna and her research project on the effects of the rabies/distemper vaccination campaign on domestic dog demography.

Rachel Santymire

Rachel Santymire, Ph.D., is an epidemiologist and director of Lincoln Park Zoo’s Davee Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology.

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