Gorilla Doctors Treat Injured Grauer’s Gorilla Silverback in Kahuzi-Biega

While the Gorilla Doctors have been unable to visit the mountain gorilla groups in DRC this month due to ongoing fighting between rebel groups and the Congolese army, our field veterinarians Dr. Eddy and Dr. Martin have been able to travel to Kahuzi-Biega National Park in South Kivu to check on the park’s Grauer’s gorillas. This time, their visit coincided with a health scare in Langa group. Dr. Eddy reports:

On the morning June 8, Dr. Martin and I prepared to visit Langa group in Kahuzi-Biega National Park. Trackers informed us that silverback Langa was in poor health after being injured in fight with Ganywamulume group on May 28.

Langa group includes silverback Langa, one adult female, two sub adults, and three juveniles. The silverback lost two adult females and an infant to a lone male in March. The family has been under intensive habituation for the past 10 months and visitors can now approach the group within 7 meters, although Langa still charges frequently.

When we arrived at the group we heard Langa screaming and charging. Later he came in to open and began eating with the three juveniles. He appeared very thin with wasted muscles. He is thin partly because of his old age but this has been aggravated by painful-looking wounds, which have clearly reduced his appetite. Langa was moving slowly with a limp in the left leg. He was only using his right arm while walking and feeding.

Severe, open wounds were visible on both arms, and there was a noticeable bad smell emanating from the gashes. He had a wound that looked about 7 cm long and 3 cm deep halfway up his right arm and had a smaller wound on his left arm close to the wrist. Despite his wounds, he was alert and responsive, and breathing normally. His appetite was quite good and his stomach looked to be about half full.

After observing him for some time, we made the plan to return the next morning to dart him with antibiotic and anti-inflammatory drugs. On June 9 we found the group at about 10:15 am. They hadn’t moved far. Unfortunately the place had dense vegetation with branches so it was not easy to find a good spot to shoot the darts.  We saw Langa trying to eat with his left hand. He had cleaned both of his wounds and we did not notice the bad smell.

We prepared two darts, one with 50mg of the antibiotic Ceftriaxone to help with wound healing and another with 5 mg of the anti-inflammatory Ketoprofen to ease his pain. I was able to successfully dart Langa with the antibiotics, but then he ran into the forest and I was not able to get another good shot. However, the antibiotic was the most important.

Trackers will check on Langa every day and report back to the Gorilla Doctors on his progress. If he does not improve we should consider to a full intervention so we can examine him fully.

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

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