Barely Stable: New Orphan Update

1.8.08 Orphan grauer's Vumilia&Mapendo eating banana stems3.JPG

On the fourth day of treatment, Mapendo and Vumilia continue to improve, eating banana stems, and ficus leaves, January 8, 2008.

The new Grauer’s gorilla orphans in DR Congo are showing signs of improvement. Eddy and Andre have done a terrific job, thanks also to the help of ICCN staff who work at the ranger station (Virungas National Park) in Mutsora, and lots of phone calls and emails with ideas and support from the rest of MGVP staff. The following series of photos shows how much progress they have made. These are possible thanks to Emmanuel Merode at Wildlife Direct who has helped with all sorts of things, including internet access at Mutsora. The phone service is very poor where the orphans are (and not very good in Rwanda right now), so email has been critical—especially for pictures.

1.6.08 Orphan grauer's gorilla Vumilia & Mapendo1 1-5-2008 11-52-47 AM.JPG

Vumilia, left, and Mapendo, right, January 5, 2008

When Andre and Eddy arrived at the ranger station in Mutsora, they found the gorillas separated and in small cages—fashioned by theircaptors. Their first move was to release the orphans. They are now together all of the time, which will help reduce their stress levels. In some ways, it is a good thing that there are two of them. They have each other.

1.6.08 Orphan grauer's gorilla Vumilia & Mapendo2 1-6-2008 11-37-24 AM.JPG

Mapendo, left, and Vumilia, right, on January 6, 2008

Gorillas are highly social. We know from experience with orphans that their behavioral/psychological health is just as important, if not more important, than their physical health. While we can stabilize them medically, we cannot treat the stress specifically. Both Mapendo and Vumilia also responded positively to space, fresh air and sunlight.

1.7.08 Orphan grauer's Mapendo eating ficus leaves 1-5-2008 7-22-54 AM.JPG

Mapendo, orphaned Grauer’s gorilla, January 7, 2008

The smaller orphan, a female named Mapendo, is between 2- and 3-years old. Fortunately, she has not come down with diarrhea and seems calm around people. She needs milk, however, and has not yet adjusted to regular bottle feedings. Andre is patiently working with her. Given his experience, if anyone can establish a routine with her, it’s Andre. She is eating some of the vegetation offered, and likes bananas.

1.7.08 Orphan grauer's Vumilia Tx Cipro&SC fluids by Dr. Eddy 1-7-2008 11-55-02 AM.JPG
Dr. Eddy Kambale treats Vumilia, January 7, 2008

The larger gorilla, an approximately 4-year-old male named Vumilia, is recovering from severe enteritis (watery stool). He is weak, but strong enough to put up a bit of a fight with the doctor. Eddy and Andre have worked out a way to restrain him quickly for treatments—subcutaneous fluids and antibiotics. Now the challenge is to get Vumilia to take his medicine orally, and drink enough fluids/eat enough vegetation so he no longer needs fluid therapy.

1.7.08 Orphan grauer's Vumilia&Mapendo eating banana stems 1-7-2008 2-54-19 PM.JPG
Vumilia, left, Mapendo, right, eating bamboo stems, January 7, 2008

Finding the appropriate “natural forest food” for confiscated gorillas is another challenge. Thanks to the efforts of everyone at Mutsora station, the orphans are now receiving some fresh vegetation—banana stems and ficus—enough to get their appetites going. We need a better, long-term solution. This is one reason why plans for a sanctuary for orphaned gorillas call for it to be located near their natural habitat so forest food can be collected easily.

1.7.08 Orphan grauer's Vumilia&Mapendo taking fluids from Andre 1-7-2008 12-46-38 PM.JPG
Andres Bauma offers the orphans oral fluids: Mapendo takes a bottle and Vumilia drinks from a shallow bowl, January 7, 2008.

Because the orphans were so weak and dehydrated, particularly Vumilia, Eddy, and Andre at first wanted to move them straight away to Goma so they would be closer to more medical supplies. But after we discussed the situation among MGVP vets, DFGFI, and ICCN, we agreed that the orphans were too sick for a car ride. I also felt certain that more time in one place would be best, as it would give them a chance to adjust to each other, bond with Andre, and establish a drinking/eating routine. MGVP’s second Congo field vet, Dr. Jacques Iyanya, traveled to Mutsora yesterday to help with orphan care, and bring more supplies. Given that both gorillas are eating and tolerating their treatments, it’s time to discuss next steps. For now, they will stay in Mutsora and—we hope—continue to gain strength.

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  1. Posted January 9, 2008 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    I’m so glad to hear good news about Mapendo and Vumilia, even if it’s cautious good news. The photos are telling – they look much better in the later pictures. Many thanks to Dr. Eddy, Andres, and Dr. Jacques for their work and care, and thanks Dr. Lucy for a prompt update. Will the orphan sanctuary be built on the Rwanda side of the Virungas? Will the Congo orphans be able to live there?


  2. Lisa, California
    Posted January 9, 2008 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    Dr. Lucy, Thank you for this update. I am so happy to hear that they are doing better. Their sadness is still written all over their little faces though. I hope they get emotionally stronger as the days go by, with the pateint, loving care of Eddy and Andres. I am so thankful that they have eachother as well. Lisa

  3. Pam/Shell Beach, CA
    Posted January 9, 2008 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    Good to see they are eating and improving. They look so thin. And sad as Lisa noticed. Thank you for all your efforts to save these little ones.

  4. Christine C.
    Posted January 9, 2008 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    It is amazing how much better Mapendo and Vumila look just in a few short days! We all know they are recieveing the very best care from the very best people, so I am hopeful that they will indeed stabalize very soon. It is nice that they have each other as well, though sad that there are yet two more orphans to be added to the list of those you need to care for. As always, thank you for your updates.

    Posted January 9, 2008 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    FANTASTIC WORK!!! Boy, I’m so excited I feel like singing from the rooftop!I’m delighted they have been given names. Surely it is a good sign the older one Vumila puts up a bit of a fight, spunk is very important in a wild creature. Perhaps the oral antibiotics could be put in a mash of bananas and milk for him. Little Mapendo, I wish I could hold her. I know I need to be cautious with my enthusiasm but every day they survive is nothing short of a miracle…and to the very hard work by everyone involved. Emmanuel, thanks for help making this all possible, including these awesome pictures. Every piece of good new is a gift to all of us.

  6. Posted January 9, 2008 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    What a great job you are doing there!! If someone can bring back these two babies from their problems this is all the team of dedicated people you have there. My best wishes for these little ones…

  7. Lucia Cristiana, Brazil
    Posted January 9, 2008 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Drs. Lucy, Andres and Eddy. Thank you Emmanuel. The progress that babies have made attest how much hard work of great vets is need to save their precious lifes. You are amazing people that makes the world a better place and share hope. Thank you very very much.

  8. Annie/Texas
    Posted January 9, 2008 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Lucy and staff I was excited to hear these babies are doing a lil better and hope they continue to improve and have the will to keep on living! Thanks to Andres too….he gets to be so close…just amazing!

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