Sick Female in Rushegura Group Successfully Treated By Dr. Fred

By Drs. Fred and Hameed

Ruterana, an adult female in Rushegura group, was observed by trackers to be moving slowly and laying down a lot the morning of September 26. They thought she looked very thin and unwell. The trackers called me and I joined them immediately. She did indeed appear weak, dehydrated, and emaciated. Her mammery glands were flat but her nipples were elongated, indicating she had been nursing recently. She gave birth to an infant on September 13 but she no longer had the baby with her. Despite our efforts to search the area, we did not find the infant in the vincincity. I decided to return the next day to assess her again

On September 27, we observed Ruterana feeding and keeping up with the rest of the group, but there were no signs of her infant. I asked the trackers to continue monitoring her closely and call me if her health deteoirtaed further.

By September 30, Ruterana’s health had not improved. I thought her weakness might be attributed to a post-partum infection, so, after a discussion with park authorities, the decision was made to dart her with antibiotics to help boost her immune system.

That morning, while waiting for tourists to finish their visit with the group, I prepared two darts: one with a long acting broad spectrum antibiotic, and the other with a anti-parasitic drug. After the tourists had left I darted the Ruterana without incident.

Over the following days, the trackers reported that Ruterana was gradually growing stronger and feeding more. On October 7, Drs. Hameed and Rachael returned to the group. Here is Hameed’s report:

We visited Rushegura group to check on Ruterana. She was moving in tune with the group feeding well on the fruits of Myrianthus and pith of Afromomum. Her stomach was full.

Despite her strength, her body still appeared thin, most likely because she has not recovered all of the muscle mass she lost during her illness. Although still a bit emaciated, the prognosis is good as she seems to be on her way to full recovery. We will continue following the rangers’ daily status reports on her condition.

You can follow the Gorilla Doctors health monitoring efforts on our Facebook page, where we post photos and notes from our monthly visits.

Please consider supporting us by making a secure online donation. Every dollar you give goes to directly supporting our gorilla health programs and One Health initiative. Thank you for your generosity.

After Intervention, Starved Gorilla Able to Feed Herself Again

By Dr. Dawn Zimmerman

On August 7, Karisoke Research Center (KRC) reported that 17-year-old adult female Kunama of Ugenda group appeared to have a protruding tongue and difficulty eating. I visited the group the following day and observed the same behaviour, although I could not determine the cause of her condition through visual observation. A plan was made for a team to check her again on Thursday and intervene if she showed no improvement.

The next morning, a team including myself, Dr. Jean-Felix Kinani, Elisabeth Nyirakaragire from the Rwandan Development Board, KRC Researcher Winnie Eckardt, and KRC trackers, trekked to Ugenda group. Kunama looked weak and was hunched over, although she was still trying to eat. Her tongue appeared even more swollen and her abdomen was flat, indicating that she had ingested little or no food recently. We needed to intervene.

We easily darted Kunama with anaesthesia and she fell asleep within minutes without the other gorillas, including two silverbacks, seeming to notice. Kunama appeared to be moderately dehydrated and undernourished so we gave her IV fluids and dextrose.
Her tongue was grossly swollen and protruding from her mouth. There were several ulcerated lesions on her tongue that appeared secondary to the tongue’s enlargement, but I could find no other obvious problems. There were no foreign bodies or masses, and the throat and mouth all appeared normal. We administered IV steroids to help reduce the inflammation of her tongue and antibiotics to treat potential infections.

During the exam, we also noticed some reproductive abnormalities that may indicate Kunama recently had a miscarriage. She has a five-year-old son, and this would have been her second baby. We can’t tell if the miscarriage is linked to her current feeding problems, but we took many samples to analyze at the laboratory to help us better understand her condition. After the exam, Kunama was given a reversal drug and returned to her group.

There  were many possible causes of Kunama’s condition and I consulted with human doctors to help narrow down the list of possibilities since we were unable to perform a wide range of tests in a limited amount of time. Dr. Jean-Felix and the KRC trackers reported, in hindsight, that they had observed Kunama playing with her tongue excessively over the past year, suggesting that her condition might be chronic rather than acute. A chronic inflammatory (deposition) disease seemed like a strong possibility.

On August 10, I returned in the morning to recheck Kanama’s condition.  She appeared stronger but with little change in the condition of her tongue and ability to eat. Winnie monitored Kanama for four hours and though Kanama continued trying to eat, she grew weaker as the afternoon went on. Drs. Jean-Felix and Noel arranged to check her again on Saturday to determine if a second intervention was needed.

The next morning, the veterinarians were surprised to see Kanama looking much better. Her tongue was not protruding and she was eating.

Today, Monday the 13th, I went up to see Kanama for myself. She looked well and was eating non-stop. My only concern was that she continued to stick her fingers in her mouth, so her tongue may still be bothering her. Unfortunately, I could not actually visualize the tongue. Perhaps it is not quite yet back to its normal size, and certainly the ulcerated lesions could be a bit painful when she’s eating. I was also unable to visualize her abdomen, but based on her rate of eating, I imagine it will be back to normal in a few days if not already. Otherwise, we are happy with the progress, and will continue to ask the KRC trackers to update us on her status.

In light of this progression, I wonder if perhaps there was a foreign body or allergen that was removed prior to our intervention and it just took longer than expected for the inflammation to be alleviated. However, because many of the possible causes of her inflamed tongue are chronic conditions, we will continue to closely monitor the condition of her tongue in the future.

You can follow the Gorilla Doctors health monitoring efforts on our Facebook page, where we post photos and notes from our monthly visits.

Please consider supporting us by making a secure online donation. Every dollar you give goes to directly supporting our gorilla health programs and One Health initiative. Thank you for your generosity.

Kaboko, World’s Only Captive Male Mountain Gorilla, Passes Away

I’m afraid we have some very sad news that we weren’t able to publicize right away because of security concerns in the DRC. At approximately 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday, July 25, Kaboko, the world’s only captive male mountain gorilla, passed away at the Senkwekwe Center mountain gorilla sanctuary at the Virunga National Park headquarters in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. His death came as fighting raged between the Congolese army and the M23 rebels less than a mile from the center.

Kaboko, who had a history of gastrointestinal problems, suddenly became ill with vomiting and bloody diarrhea on July 24. With guidance from Gorilla Doctors veterinarians, who are responsible for the health care of the mountain gorilla orphans living at the Senkwekwe Center, Virunga National Park staff members treated him with antibiotics and oral fluids. Gorilla Doctors veterinarians were ready and willing to travel to the park by road and air, but were not able to reach the sanctuary due to the intense fighting surrounding the park headquarters.

“It is a very sad time for the Gorilla Doctors, the Virunga National Park staff, and the other orphan mountain gorillas, as we have lost our close friend Kaboko,” said Dr. Mike Cranfield, Co-Director of Gorilla Doctors, a veterinary team dedicated to saving the lives of Africa’s critically endangered mountain gorillas. “Kaboko has been under our care since 2007, when he was rescued from poachers and required surgery to amputate his right hand, which had been very severely injured by a snare. It is a shame that we were not able to reach him this time, but we are grateful for the dedication of the Virunga National Park staff, who made valiant attempts to save Kaboko as best they could, and who have bravely remain at the Senkwekwe Center to care for the other gorillas despite the war at their doorstep.”

Nine-year-old Kaboko lived at the Senkwekwe Center with 11-year-old adult female Maisha and five-year-old juvenile females Ndakasi and Ndeze. All four were born to wild mountain gorilla parents in Virunga National Park, but were orphaned by events involving humans conducting illegal activities in the park. In addition to losing his hand, Kaboko suffered from mental trauma as a result of his ordeal and was depressed and solitary for more than a year after his confiscation. Kaboko eventually grew to trust his human caretakers and the other orphans but remained a shy, somewhat nervous gorilla. In the last year and a half of his life he suffered from ongoing bouts of diarrhea, which were successfully treated with antibiotics and anti-parasitic drugs.

Much of the southern sector of Virunga National Park, which is home to about 200 of the world’s remaining 786 mountain gorillas, has been under rebel control since May 8 when a group of 1,500 troops defected from the Congolese army and formed the M23 militia. The Virunga National Park headquarters at Rumangabo has remained in control of the park rangers, however. Safe travel between Goma, the regional capital where Gorilla Doctors maintains an office, and Rumangabo has not been possible for much of this time period.

On July 26, Kaboko’s body was transported back to Goma where the Gorilla Doctors performed a post-mortem exam. The veterinarians suspect that Kaboko succumbed to a severe bacterial infection of the small intestine. Tissue and fluid samples collected during the necropsy will be sent to the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in the U.S. to be examined by Gorilla Doctors Pathologist Dr. Linda Lowenstine to determine the exact cause of Kaboko’s illness.

For more information please contact:

Molly Feltner, Communications Officer, mollyfeltner@gmail.com +1-857-719-9258

Detailed Kaboko biography

Sound recording of fighting happening near Virunga National Park headquarters on July 25

Background article on the war in Virunga

Urgent Appeal: Help Us Document Our Patients!

The Gorilla Doctors team in Rwanda is in tremendous need of a new professional DSLR camera and telephoto lens after both of our older cameras and lenses were damaged beyond repair. We photograph our patients so that we can document and better track their health. Long lenses and cameras designed to work well in low light help us to clearly identify individuals in the dark forest.

Help make sure our staff can properly photograph our gorilla patients in Rwanda by making a cash gift to our camera fund: we hope to raise $2,000 so that we can purchase two refurbished recent-model cameras and lenses from Nikon or Canon.

If you are able to help, visit GorillaDoctors.org to make a secure on-line donation. When using the online donation system, please designate that your gift is for “cameras” in the appropriate box under the “This is a donation” heading. Thanks so much for helping the Gorilla Doctors share our world with you!

Juvenile Ngwino Succumbs to Snare Wounds

This month, the Gorilla Doctors clinically managed the complicated case of Ngwino, a juvenile gorilla from Inshuti group in Rwanda who was found caught in a snare in early July. Normally, the Gorilla Doctors intervene to treat a snare-wounded gorilla the very next morning after the wound is first observed, but this time, silverback Inshuti prevented trackers and our veterinarians from approaching the infant, and then engaged another silverback in battle. Somewhere in the melee, Ngwino disappeared. More than a week later, Ngwino finally reunited with her mother and Inshuti, but still had the snare around her ankle. On July 13, Gorilla Doctors and Karisoke Research Center trekked to the group to intervene, but unfortunately found Ngwino suffering from severe injuries that ultimately proved fatal.

Dr. Dawn recounts what happened:

On July 13, a team including myself, Drs. Eddy and Noel, Elisabeth Nyirakaragire from RDB, Karisoke Research Center Director Felix Ndagijimana, and several trackers trekked to find Inshuti group in order to perform an intervention on juvenile female Ngwino. When we found the group, it was difficult to approach Ngwino as the silverback Inshuti was guarding her. However, we were able to visually confirm the presence of the rope snare still around her left ankle and damage to the tissue of the left foot. Based on our visual assessment, it was clear an intervention was needed to remove the snare and hopefully save her foot. Due to Inshuti’s aggressive behaviour and unpredictability, he would need to be immobilized in order to anesthetize Ngwino.

Inshuti was darted at 11:09 a.m., and fully anesthetized 10 minutes later. While Dr. Eddy and I performed a thorough physical exam on Inshuti, Dr. Noel and the trackers looked for Ngwino who was found approximately 30 minutes later, was separated from her mother Shangaza, and was darted intramuscularly at 11:43 a.m..  She was down by 11:48 a.m.

Once we were able to physically examine Ngwino, the devastating scope of her injuries became clear. The rope snare was so tight around her left ankle that it was cutting into the skin and subcutaneous tissues. Her entire left foot was necrotic and cold to the touch, gangrenous from losing blood supply and essentially “dead.” We might have considered amputating the foot if it were not for an even more serious shoulder wound.

An open humeral fracture of Ngwino’s right shoulder had become severely infected with exposed necrotic bone and soft tissue, an open joint capsule, and gross purulent infection resulting in a foul smell characteristic of dead tissue. We do not know how Ngwino sustained this injury but the trackers suspected Inshuti may have tried to free Ngwino when she was first caught in the snare, wrenching her body away from the tree where the rope was tied. Due to the stage of tissue death, the infection had likely spread systemically and she had become septic. In addition, Ngwino’s body showed signs of dehydration and mild to moderate muscle wasting, and her lungs crackled under auscultation indicating a possible pneumonia.

The severity of Ngwino’s injuries and the advanced stage of the necrosis and infection put her in a grave situation. We believed that the infected shoulder wound would result in her death if not amputated. However, such a high amputation had never before performed on a wild mountain gorilla; we have previously only amputated to the elbow. In addition, the loss of the right arm and the contralateral foot would mean that Ngwino would likely not be able to keep up with the group, feed efficiently, reproduce successfully, or defend herself in the future. She would have a poor quality of life should she be able to survive.  Therefore, after discussing the options with park authorities, the decision was made to treat Ngwino as best we could without performing any amputations.  Though her prognosis was grave, euthanasia was not opted.

The wounds were flushed copiously with a povidone iodine solution, We were not able to debride much of the infected or necrotic tissue since little could be accomplished without removing the necrotic bone and while still maintaining the limbs. Injectable and topical antibiotics were administered, as were fluids and painkillers.

While Inshuti was waking up, we injected Ngwino with a reversal and placed her near Inshuti to recover. To avoid aggravating Inshuti we quickly moved from the area, but trackers remained nearby and reported just awhile later that Ngwino was reunited with her mother and was able to suckle. However, we were not optimistic about her chances for survival.

The next day, Karisoke Research Center trackers found Ngwino had moved very little from the recovery site and was very weak. Inshuti and Shangaza remained by her side. The next day, trackers found her deceased body. They wrapped her in blankets and brought her down to the Gorilla Doctors’ laboratory for a post mortem exam.

Ngwino is the second gorilla this year to die after being caught in a snare. In February, a Karisoke anti-poaching team found the body of an infant gorilla from an unhabituated group whose deceased body was found still ensnared to a tree.

While the number of snares found by Karisoke’s anti-poaching team has not reportedly increased, we wonder if the gorillas are perhaps frequenting areas more often used by poachers, or areas less often patrolled.  Inshuti’s other infant, Akaruso, was also thought to have been caught in a snare around the same time as Ngwino, as a chewed-through rope snare was found in the group’s area concomitantly to Akaruso not using his arm well.  Subsequent to an interaction with Giraneza group, Akaruso went missing and has not been seen since July 10.

Just days after Ngwino’s death, Karisoke discovered a blackback and two juveniles from Kuryama group dissembling two snares.  Although adult gorillas, mostly silverbacks, have been known to recognize and dissemble snares, this is the first time Karisoke has witnessed juveniles doing so. Such an event is encouraging in light of Ngwino’s death, although we hope for a future when no gorilla has to worry about snares.

You can follow the Gorilla Doctors health monitoring efforts on our Facebook page, where we post photos and notes from our monthly visits.

Please consider supporting MGVP by making a secure online donation. Every dollar you give goes to directly supporting our gorilla health programs and One Health initiative. Thank you for your generosity.

Fighting Prevents Veterinarians From Monitoring Virunga Gorillas

July has proven to be another extremely distressing month for our colleagues in Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo. In early July, the M23 rebel movement succeeded in seizing several key towns around the southern sector of the park where Virunga’s 200 wild mountain gorillas live. The Congolese army and the UN withdrew from the national park, leaving the defense of the park headquarters to a small team of rangers and Chief Park Warden Emmanuel de Merode. All nonessential park staff and families were evacuated to camps near the regional capital of Goma.

During the last full week of July, a battle raged between the rebels and the Congolese army at the military base just below the hill where the national park headquarters is located. Although the headquarters was not a target, mortars and stray bullets landed in the area, injuring several locals and killing at least one person. At this moment, rebel forces control the Rumangabo military base but are allowing the national park rangers to reenter the gorilla sector of the park to begin searching for Virunga’s six habituated gorilla families.

Due to the heavy fighting and instability, the Gorilla Doctors have not been able to monitor the mountain gorilla orphans at the Senkwekwe Center or the habituated gorilla families in the park. While we are extremely frustrated with our inability to check on the gorillas, we are grateful for the dedication of the Virunga National Park staff members who have bravely remained behind to hold the park headquarters. We have our fingers crossed that the rangers will be able to find all of the habituated gorillas alive and that conditions will improve so that we are able to safely travel to the park.

For the most up to date information about the situation in Virunga, please follow our Facebook page and Gorilla.cd blog.

Donor Story: Raemonde Bezenar and the Canadian Friends of MGVP

You could say that the mountain gorillas themselves are the best fundraisers for their conservation. Many tourists, after seeing mountain gorillas in the wild for the first time, have become ardent supporters of conservation projects in Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. That’s definitely the case for Raemonde Bezenar, one of our biggest fans, who has raised tens of thousands of dollars for Gorilla Doctors and two of our key partners, Virunga National Park and the Mountain Gorilla Conservation Project. Raemonde has made generous personal donations and raised money hosting fundraising dinners and the annual Edmonton Gorilla 5K Fun Run.

Below, Raemonde details how she became involved with the Gorilla Doctors and the special relationship she has with the mountain gorilla orphans and their caretaker, Virunga National Park ranger Andre Bauma, at the Senkwekwe Center, which she helped build.

In 2007, I travelled to Uganda and Rwanda, home of the mountain gorillas. I arranged to do 9 gorilla treks, 4 in Uganda and 5 in Rwanda. Little did I know that the experience of seeing the gorillas in their natural habitat would change me forever. It is something so very special that it is hard to put into words. The only thing that I can say is that I left feeling like I really knew the gorillas, as I would know good friends. Knowing how endangered mountain gorillas are, I felt obligated to do whatever I could to help protect them and their environment.

I returned home to Edmonton, Alberta, and founded the Canadian Friends of the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (CFMGVP), which became a nonprofit society on June 23, 2008. I spoke with Dr. Mike Cranfield, then Executive Director of MGVP (now Co-Director of Gorilla Doctors), about potential projects to support and he mentioned the Senkwekwe Center at Virunga National Park. At the time, mountain gorilla orphans Ndakasi and Ndeze, who had been rescued as infants in 2007 when their mothers were killed, lived at a house in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo. The park and MGVP wanted to move the orphans to a location where the environment and altitude would be close to what mountain gorillas experience in the wild. I asked Dr. Cranfield how much that would cost. He said $30,000.

I thought about that and made the decisions to donate the required amount of money for the 40M X 40M enclosure for the orphaned gorillas. It was an unconditional gift for an incredible species. Soon after, the enclosure was built and Ndakasi and Ndeze were successfully transferred to their new home at the Senkwekwe Center in Virunga National Park.

In 2009, I returned to Africa and finally had the chance to meet the mountain gorilla orphans and their caretaker Andre Bauma. I knew all about how Andre had helped save Ndakasi after her mother’s death and then had taken care of her and Ndeze from the day they both were rescued. When Andre and I met for the first time, we opened our arms, embraced, and cried. It was a great moment.

I have the highest regard for Andre because of his dedication to the conservation of nature. The sacrifices that Andre has made and continues to make for the safety of the orphaned mountain gorillas Ndakasi and Ndeze, and now also Maisha and Kaboko, is very unique. He is protecting his children as any good parent would.

This year the proceeds from the Edmonton Gorilla 5K Fun Run will go towards supporting veterinary care for the orphan mountain gorillas at Senkwekwe. Now that conflict has enveloped Virunga National Park it’s more important than ever to support the people who care for the gorillas. It is because of donations from people like you and me that, despite many challenges, mountain gorillas are still thriving in Africa. I believe that this is something of which we should all be proud.

You can follow the Gorilla Doctors health monitoring efforts on our Facebook page, where we post photos and notes from our monthly visits.

Please consider supporting MGVP by making a secure online donation. Every dollar you give goes to directly supporting our gorilla health programs and One Health initiative. Thank you for your generosity.

A Mountain Gorilla’s Self-Healing Power

Being wildlife veterinarians, the Gorilla Doctors are often challenged to determine the seriousness of an illness or injury in a gorilla by visual observation alone. Clinically, it’s ideal to perform tests and physical examinations on ailing patients to make definitive diagnoses. However, as conservationists of wild gorillas, the Gorilla Doctors must take care to disrupt their patients’ lives as little as possible and only interevene in truly life-threatening cases.

When our veterinary team observes a gorilla with a health problem that doesn’t appear to be life-threatening, they must watch and wait to see if the gorilla is able to recover without treatment. The waiting can be nerve wrecking, but we’re thrilled when a gorilla has the strenght to recover on its own.

Such was the case with Turate, an infant gorilla in Urugamaba group in Volcanoes National Park, who lost the use of his arm for several weeks. On June 12, Karisoke Research Center staff, which monitor Urugamba group, noticed that the two-year-old son of female Pasika was not using his right hand. His right arm appeared swollen and somewhat twisted and Turate showed pain when trying to use the arm to walk. Was his arm wrenched by a snare or did he dislocate his elbow in a fall?  It was impossible to tell without a physical exam or X-Ray. Despite the injury, however, Turate was able to move about and climb trees. He had even adapted his feeding habits and was using his right foot and left hand to feed.

Dr. Jean-Felix followed Turate’s case but the infant did not seem to improve much over the course of several weeks. He suspected that Turate might have a broken humerus or collarbone. Still, Turate seemed to be coping well. Then, in July, trackers began to notice that Turate was regaining the use of arm.

Dr. Dawn visited the group on July 11 and found that Turate had made a full recovery. Given that four weeks passed between the initial injury and recovery, Dr. Dawn suspected Turate may have had a severe soft tissue injury, a minor fracture, or dislocated bone that reduced itself. Whatever the case, we’re happy Turate was able to self heal. We can’t wait to see what kind of silverback this tough little guy will grow up to be.

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You can follow the Gorilla Doctors health monitoring efforts on our Facebook page, where we post photos and notes from our monthly visits.

Please consider supporting MGVP by making a secure online donation. Every dollar you give goes to directly supporting our gorilla health programs and One Health initiative. Thank you for your generosity.

Concerns Mount for Two Injured Infants of Inshuti Group

Over the last few days, the Gorilla Doctors have been following the complicated cases of two injured infant gorillas belonging to Inshuti group. One infant was caught in a snare and in the other the case the cause of the trauma was unclear. It has not been possible to intervene yet in either case due to high stress levels in Inshuti group and fighting between silverback Inshuti and his rival Giraneza.

Dr. Dawn reports:

July 9

On July 3, trackers from the Karisoke Research Center reported finding the infant gorilla Akaruso dangling upside down from a tree by a rope snare that had caught his left leg. Akaruso is the three-year-old infant of Taraja who transferred to Giraneza group, the new group that formed when silverback Giraneza took some members from Inshuti group in February. Akaruso remained with Inshuti group. The trackers were able to cut the snare from the tree, and the infant was reunited with Inshuti, although he appeared to be weak and limping with the rope still around his leg. As standard practice, we did not attempt an intervention that same day in order to allow the stressed group to regain some composure.

The next day, Karisoke reported that Inshuti made it very difficult to check on Akaruso. Inshuti charged multiple times and kept the infant out of view. It was not possible to perform an intervention.

Over the next few days, Inshuti continued to charge the trackers, and they could only catch glimpses of Akaruso.  On July 8, trackers reported seeing the snare still on Akaruso’s left leg.  However, later in the day, the Inshuti and Giraneza groups met and the silverbacks fought, making it impossible to intervene again.

Today, I went up to assess the situation for a possible intervention to remove Akaruso’s snare.  Our team found Giraneza’s group first and, surprisingly, Akaruso was with Giraneza. No snare was observed on Akaruso’s leg, nor was he limping.  However, he was not using his left arm very well.  No wound or swelling could be appreciated, and he could.  I observed his ability to fully extend his elbow, wrist, and fingers, even grasping at some vegetation on the ground.  However, most of the time, he kept his left arm in to his chest, using only his right arm when moving. In addition, Akaruso was not observed eating during our two-hour observation period.

It became apparent that there might have been a misidentification between Akaruso and the two-year-old female Ngwino, who is also a member of Inshuti group. In retrospect, Ngwino may have been the infant cut from the tree on July 3.

Trackers believed that another infant was caught in a snare around the same time, as a piece of bitten off rope was found in the area.  Perhaps this was Akaruso and the snare had been attached to his left arm, causing pain and mal-use of the arm.  Another possibility for Akaruso could be trauma due to aggression from Giraneza. When an infant gorilla joins a group with an unrelated silverback, there is always the risk that the silverback could commit infanticide. We observed one episode of aggression by Giraneza towards Akaruso, but Giraneza subsequently groomed Akaruso and they rested together.

Soft tissue trauma to the arm is the most likely differential, although we are unable to rule-out a fracture and/or dislocation.  Due to the movement of the elbow, wrist, and finger joints, I suspect he will improve without needing intervention. However, we cannot rule-out any internal abdominal trauma due to aggression from Giraneza that would explain the infant’s decreased appetite. Stress could be another factor as it has been only one day since the infant moved to a new group post-interaction.

Later in the day, we found Inshuti with the adult female Shangaza not far from Giraneza group’s location. Inshuti appeared uneasy. Ngwino was not with them. Tomorrow, a large tracker team will set out to try to find her.

July 10

Today trackers found Inshuti and Shangaza but no sign of Ngwino. The search will resume tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the tense situation between the silverback Giraneza and the male infant Akaruso, who left Inshuti group on July 8 to join his mother Taraja, has evolved. This morning trackers reported that Akaruso appeared to be trying to run away from Giraneza with his mother. Later Akaruso was observed by himself, running in the direction of Inshuti group. He was half way to Inshuti group when trackers left the forest at the end of the day.

We are very concerned for the safety of both Ngwino and Akaruso. Tomorrow our colleagues at the Karisoke Research Center and the Rwandan Development Board will attempt to track both infants.

July 11

Neither infant was located today. The search will continue tomorrow.

July 12

Karisoke Research Center trackers finally found  Ngwino today with Inshuti group. She still has the rope snare around her leg and appeared very weak. We are planning to intervene with the Karisoke team first thing tomorrow morning. Sadly, the infant Akarusho is still missing.

To be continued …

You can follow the Gorilla Doctors health monitoring efforts on our Facebook page, where we post photos and notes from our monthly visits.

Please consider supporting MGVP by making a secure online donation. Every dollar you give goes to directly supporting our gorilla health programs and One Health initiative. Thank you for your generosity.

After Death, A Mountain Gorilla’s Life Story Continues

On September 5, 2010, female mountain gorilla Tuck, one of Dian Fossey’s original research subjects, passed away after a long life in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. When members of Titus group finished their day-long vigil over her body, Tuck was carried out of the forest and brought to the Gorilla Doctors’ headquarters for a post mortem exam. To determine the cause of death, veterinarians inspected her remains and took fluid and tissue samples to be analyzed by pathologists in the U.S. After the necropsy, her body was brought to the mountain gorilla cemetery behind Volcanoes National Park headquarters in Kinigi. She was carefully laid out in a wooden box and buried in the black soil of the Virunga Massif.

Fossey and other researchers from the Karisoke Research Center learned a great deal about mountain gorillas from Tuck, who had been studied on an almost daily basis for four decades. Yet, even after her death, Tuck still has more to teach us.

Every mountain gorilla death, while a sad loss in its own way, provides insight into gorilla health that can help us better understand how to conserve future generations of gorillas. Bones as well can reveal previously unknown aspects of a gorilla’s life: its approximate age, whether it suffered from previous skeletal injuries or disease, and how much stress it experienced. By comparing the analysis of the animal’s bones with the behavior and health notes recorded by researchers and veterinarians during the gorilla’s lifetime, a more complete picture of its life emerges.

Comparing the skeletons of many gorillas from different time periods reveals even more. Scientists can trace  environmental changes, and even how well gorillas were able to recover from serious diseases and injuries after being treated by the Gorilla Doctors.

That’s why Gorilla Doctors is collaborating with the Rwanda Development Board, the Institute of National Museums of RwandaGeorge Washington UniversityDian Fossey Gorilla Fund International (DFGFI), and the New York University College of Dentistry on the Mountain Gorilla Skeletal Project.

When the project commenced in 2008, researchers set out to recover the skeletal remains of deceased mountain gorillas buried since 1995, the year after park authorities stopped burying animals in Dian Fossey’s original gorilla graveyard deep inside the park. Protocols were developed for all future burials to ensure that skeletons would remained intact when exhumed. Gorilla Doctors contributes by carrying out the post-necropsy burial procedures and sharing gorilla health data with the project’s anthropologists. Since the project’s inception, 100 mountain gorilla skeletons have been compiled—the largest collection of mountain gorilla skeletal remains in the world.

Researchers are currently cataloguing and preparing the skeletons for detailed analyses. The specimens, currently curated at DFGFI’s Karisoke Research Center in Musanze, Rwanda, are also being imaged with a three-dimensional laser scanner so that Rwandan students and researchers, and scientists from around the world, will be able to study them.

It is our hope that the research findings of the Mountain Gorilla Skeletal Project will help the Gorilla Doctors to even more effectively diagnose and treat health problems in live gorillas.  Once the Project has finished cataloguing and examining Tuck’s bones, we will have even greater insight into how she was able to survive for almost 40 years in the wild. We’ll be sure to share the project’s findings as results are published.

You can follow the Gorilla Doctors health monitoring efforts on our Facebook page, where we post photos and notes from our monthly visits.

Please consider supporting MGVP by making a secure online donation. Every dollar you give goes to directly supporting our gorilla health programs and One Health initiative. Thank you for your generosity.