By Desiree Aguiar
Gorilla Doctors received the sad news this week that Rukina, the lead Silverback of the Kyagurilo group in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, was found dead on Tuesday, April 7.
Rukina was observed feeding and moving with his group on Monday. He appeared to be well, and did not show any signs of poor health. That evening, there was a major storm, and the next day, trackers noticed that lightning had struck a tree about three feet from a gorilla night nest. Rukina’s body was found near the tree..
Gorilla Doctors’ Dr. Ricky conducted a full post-mortem examination on Wednesday, and the most significant finding during the examination of the carcass was some bleeding under the skin on one shoulder. Rukina did not have any large wounds or other obvious signs of disease.
Based on the circumstances surrounding his death – the storm the evening before, the evidence of the lightning strike on the tree next to his nest (see photo), and the bleeding under his skin at just one localized spot on his body, Dr. Ricky concluded that Rukina died as a result of being struck by lightning.
Lightning strikes can not only cause massive burns, they can also disrupt the heart’s electrical rhythm, causing cardiac arrest.
Gorilla Doctors will further examine Rukina’s tissues to determine the definitive cause of death.