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Gorilla Doctors is dedicated to saving the mountain gorilla species one patient at a time. We are the only group providing wild mountain and Grauer's gorillas with direct, hands-on medicial care. Research has proven that by intervening to save sick and injured gorillas, the Gorilla Doctors have helped the overall mountain gorilla population to increase. Learn more at GorillaDoctors.org.

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Silverback Rano, Leader of Titus Group, Dies Suddenly, Gorilla Docs Investigate

In a shocking and sad turn of events, 21-year-old mountain gorilla silverback Umushikirano (Rano), leader of Titus group in Volcanoes National Park, was found dead Monday morning when Fossey Fund trackers arrived to the group. There were no visible signs of injury or illness and his body was carried down the mountain and transported to the Gorilla Doctors headquarters in Musanze, where a necropsy was conducted by Drs. Jean Felix and Noel to try to determine the cause of this young silverback’s sudden death. Through the necropsy, Gorilla Doctors determined that Rano suffered a perforation of the small intestine and acute peritonitis, though we cannot be sure of the cause of the perforation. Dr. Jean Felix and team found copious amounts of tapeworms in Rano's intestinal tract, but we will not know for sure whether this contributed to his death until histopathology is complete. Histopathology will be conducted by our Veterinary Pathologist based at UC Davis, Dr. Linda Lowenstine, which will provide further insight into the cause of death.

Silverback Rano, former leader of Titus group in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda.


Blackback Kabukojo's Health Suffers as He Struggles to Lead Rushegura Group

Blackback Kabukojo had been trailing his group for several days, appearing weak, emaciated and dehydrated when the Uganda Wildlife Authority contacted Gorilla Doctors Field Veterinarian Dr. Fred Nizeyimana for a veterinary assessment. The Bwindi gorillas were keeping Dr. Fred on his toes as he responded to and provided treatment for several ailing or injured silverbacks in the park this past week. He trekked to Rusheugra group to check on the blackback leader on Tuesday, July 15 and found the male in need of veterinary treatment.

Blackback Kabukojo, the young leader of Rushegura group in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

Kabukojo took over leadership of Rushegura group after silverback Mwirima suddenly passed away in early March and has certainly been under some stress to keep this large family together without the experience and wisdom of a seasoned silverback. At only 8-12 years old, it is quite unusual to see a blackback lead a group, but in the case of the Rushegura family, there was not another silverback within the group to take Mwirima's place. Everyone held their breath to see how Kabukojo would handle the leadership role and up until now, he seems to be faring well. As the leader of the group, it is very important that we try to keep Kabukojo in good health, not only for group stability, but protection of the infants within the group as well. 

Here is Dr. Fred's report of his veterinary assessment and treatment:

"I trekked to Rushegura group with three UWA Wardens and a team of UWA ranger-trackers to assess Kabukojo's condition on Tuesday morning. We found the group in the Nyarwunga area of Bwindi and Kabukojo was ranging with the group. The blackback was feeding lightly, but he appeared very weak with copious diarrhea. His body condition indicated he was dehydrated with slight muscle wasting and his vocalising was soft and muffled. It appeared that second ranking blackback Kalembezi was taking over the role of caretaker and sentry for the group. 

I made the decision to administer medications to help Kabukojo fight the illness he was battling. I loaded darts with Ivermectin, Ketoprofen, and Ceftriaxone (anti-parasitic, anti-inflammatory and antibiotic medications) and successfully darted Kabukojo at 12:40pm, 1:01pm, and 2:14pm respectively. Fecal samples were collected to test for parasite load. 

The following day, I returned to the group to check on Kabukojo's condition and found the blackback actively feeding and appearing much stronger. He was clearly back in charge of his group, though did not climb the trees to feed like his other group members."

Blackback Kabukojo of Rushegura group.

UWA trackers are continuing to closely monitor Kabukojo and Rushegura group and will report any changes in behavior or body condition to Gorilla Doctors asap. For now, it seems the young leader will continue to remain the dominant male, navigating his group through the forest in search of food and safety! 


Chimanuka Group Feeds on Ripe Fruit of the Myiranthus Tree

The Chimanuka group Grauer’s gorillas were feeding on the ripe fruit of the Myiranthus tree during Dr. Eddy’s visit last week in the Mwandagalo area of Kahuzi Biega National Park. Eighteen night nests were found (13 on the ground, 5 up in the trees) and all 18 individuals were observed.

The group interacted with a wild lone silverback earlier in the week and the outsider succeeded in taking 3 females from dominant silverback Chimanuka. Luckily, there were no signs of injury from the interaction.

Three-year-old infant Marhale has struggled from the loss of his mother Makali (who died in September 2013 after sustaining serious wounds from a fight with a silverback) forcing him to become weened at a very early age. Although the infant’s health is fragile and he was seen crying out, Dr. Eddy observed adult female Mwinja carrying Marhale around with her, held protectively between her forearm and chest. She was observed feeding alongside and grooming the infant during the health check. 

Near the group, Dr. Eddy saw a bat hanging from a tree. Our PREDICT veterinarians are humanely testing bats, which are known vectors for infectious disease, to determine risk levels of disease transmission. 

A bat hanging out near Chimanuka group in Kahuzi Biega National Park.

As the team trekked out of the forest, a wire snare was found and destroyed by the park rangers. 

A Kahuzi Biega National Park tracker destroys a wire snare found on the trail.

A poacher's wire snare found in Kahuzi Biega National Park, DRC.

While in Kahuzi Biega National Park, Dr. Eddy also assessed the health of Pungwe group, the newest Grauer's gorilla family currently being habituated to human presence. Eleven night nests were found in the Kyanderema area. When the field team arrived to the group, they first observed an adult female quietly feeding on vegetation and reported that she did not seem bothered at all by their presence. Dominant silverback Pungwe charged intermittently, as he is known to do, but with less intensity and less frequency than during previous visits. The other members of the group tolerated the field team's close proximity while they fed in a tree. It appears that the group is well on it's way to being habituated to human presence and will eventually be available for tourist visits. 


Docs Treat Infected Wound of Injured Silverback Karibu in Bwindi

Karibu, a young silverback in Nkuringo group in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, was moving slowly behind the group for several days when the Uganda Wildlife Authority contacted Dr. Fred for a veterinary assessment. Recently, Karibu has taken to leaving the group for extended periods of time, exploring life as a solitary silverback. During a period of time in early April while he was with the group, Karibu was treated with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications for a respiratory infection. He disappeared once again and when he reappeared in the group in mid-May, he had a small healing wound on the lower left side of his abdomen.

Silverback Karibu of Nkuringo group in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

Dr. Fred visited the group on July 8 while they were ranging in the buffer zone at the park perimeter and discovered that in addition to the adbominal wound, the silverback had an infected wound on his thigh, but he was still actively feeding. Dominant silverback Rafiki and other group members were very suspicious and agitated, and Karibu was being evasive of the field team, so Dr. Fred was unable to dart the silverback with antibiotics that day. He decided to give the group a few days to calm down and Drs. Fred, Methode, and Jan, along with UWA rangers, trekked to the group again two days later for further assessment and a possible veterinary intervention. Here is Dr. Fred's report:

"We found the group ranging in the Cyangara area of the buffer zone inside the park when we returned to the group to assess Karibu's condition. Karibu was with the group at the time of our arrival in the early afternoon. He was not far from dominant silverback Rafiki, who was busy feeding. Karibu moved a little ways and then sat down. After a brief time, he lied down on his stomach with his head facing the ground. He appeared weak and did not seem to be aware of our presence. Even when trackers began to cut vegetation around the area, he did not bother to turn and watch. Flies were swarming around his infected wound and he was not observed feeding at any time throughout the assessment. 

Karibu's wound was necrotic and in need of veterinary attention.

A juvenile gorilla wandered up to Karibu and began grooming his wound, which was necrotic and had a purulent discharge. We observed some muscle wasting on his back, chest and sagittal crest. Based on these observations, the decision was made to intervene and administer treatment. 

Muscle wasting was evident on Karibu's back, chest and sagittal crest.

He was darted with anesthesia at 1:19pm and fully sedated 6 minutes later. We cleaned and flushed the wounds with saline, conducted a complete physical examination and collected blood, hair, saliva, and fecal samples for future research. He was given an antibiotic and anti-inflammatory medications, as well as intravenous (IV) fluids. The intervention lasted a little over one hour. 

Dr. Fred prepares to administer antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications.

The vets cleaned Karibu's abdominal wound during the intervention.

The field team remained with Karibu to monitor him as he recovered from the anesthesia. He began to feed and move soon after waking.

I trekked to the group 3 days later, prepared to administer a second round of medications. When the field team and I arrived to Nkuringo group, Karibu was no where to be found. We continued to trek and found him in the Cyangara area, while the group had moved on to the Busharo region. Karibu was out of his night nest at the time of our arrival mid-morning, but had not moved very far. He was actively feeding and moved fast away from the field team once we were within close proximity. He crossed the Kashasha river and we observed him through the thick vegetation. Fortunately, his condition was much improved. He had a full stomach and was moving and behaving like a strong silverback. The UWA trackers will continue to monitor him closely and report any decline in condition to Gorilla Doctors. 

Update on July 21:

Post-intervention, Karibu kept moving in a different direction than his group and was missing for several days before rangers were able to track him down. Unfortunately, they discovered that the silverback had not completely recovered. Dr. Fred trekked up the following morning to assess his condition and found him ranging alone in the Murunaba area of the park, about 2 kilometers from where Nkuringo group was ranging. When Dr. Fred and the field team arrived, Karibu was out of his night nest and was feeding. There were heaps of Mimulopsis arborescens plants along the trail, indicating that he had been feeding earlier. He moved fast when he saw the field team and then once he reached a comfortable distance, settled under some thick vegetation. Once Dr. Fred was able to get a bit closer, he saw that the wound had pink edges and there were no signs of infection. Karibu's stomach was half full, but there were still signs of slight emaciation and muscle wasting and he appeared weak at times. Dr. Fred made the decision to go ahead and administer another round of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications to help Karibu "get over the hump". He will check on the silverback again in 3 days. 


Ontario Animal Hospital Hosts Annual Fundraiser for Gorilla Doctors

Gorilla Doctors would like to thank Peterborough West Animal Hospital in Ontario, Canada, who recently hosted a fundraiser to support our work to conserve eastern gorillas in central Africa. The Peterborough West Animal Hospital has hosted a fundraiser every year since 2008. After taking a brief break in 2013, the hospital staff geared up to host the biggest fundraiser yet this year.

Dr. Scott Sargent, veterinarian and owner of Peterborough West, is a personal friend of Gorilla Doctors Director Dr. Mike Cranfield. The veterinarians met on Dr. Sargent’s family dairy farm southwest of Peterborough and have remained friends through the years. Dr. Sargent and his wife Tish are dedicated supporters of the work of Gorilla Doctors.

Peterborough West Animal Hospital. http://peterboroughvets.ca/

“The fundraiser is always a family fun event where clients, the general public and their furry friends come together in our dog friendly, park-like environment” said Hospital Manager Cheryl Vandal. “The members of the team here at the hospital made donations to the bake sale and assisted in the success of the day.  From the face-painting and bouncy castle for the children, to the live reptile display from the local Peterborough “Riverview Park and Zoo”, to the dog training expert, the varied attractions kept everyone entertained.”

The fundraiser cake, featuring a mountain gorilla!

"Staff, family members, and fundraiser attendees donated homemade baked goodies for the bake sale - this has always been a favorite! We also had a great barbecue and ice cold drinks that could be bought with a small donation. Thanks to many of the veterinary drug representatives and businesses in the community that the hospital works with on a daily basis, many generous gift donations were provided for the fundraiser.  The team put together approximately a dozen baskets with the donated gifts and our guests purchased tickets to win the ones they liked best. A 50/50 draw was also very popular and helped add to our fundraising total."

The bake sale and gift basket silent auction at the fundraiser.

This year, Peterborough West raised just over $1,700 and hosted approximately 100 guests at the event. We would like to extend our thanks to everyone that participated in and attended the annual Gorilla Doctors fundraising event, and we hope to see everyone (and then some) again next year!