About this Blog

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.

Your generous donation will directly support gorilla monitoring, life-saving medical interventions, and health studies to save the critically endangered gorillas

 

Tuesday
Dec162014

DRC Team Benefits from Donated Generator to Goma Office

Garry Weber, CEO of Weber Financial Inc. and a very generous supporter of Gorilla Doctors, recently purchased a generator for our office in Goma, immensely changing the efficiency and efficacy of our work in the DR Congo. Our DRC team members are thrilled because they can now work uninterrupted during the frequent power outages in Goma, and our valuable field samples will stay frozen, protecting them from degradation. In addition, the generator will provide power for the local veterinary lab, ultimately contributing to greater capacity building in the region!

DRC Administrator Dr. Jacques and Employee Health Program Manager Jean-Paul Lukusa with the new generator in Goma.

A message from Dr. Eddy Kambale:

"We have been in great need of a generator as a reliable back up power source at the Gorilla Doctors Goma office for some time. Our Goma office is joined with the Provincial Veterinary laboratory for the region and it is here that Dr. Martin and I write our field reports and store our frozen field samples, as well as various other animal vaccines and supplies. We also have an area where we can conduct small animal medical procedures in the office, surgical interventions on pets and other domestic animals, and conduct necropsies to determine the cause of death in deceased animals and collect samples for future research.

The lack of sufficient and reliable power in the region has been a major problem and is an ongoing challenge for the Goma veterinary lab. With the power going out on a regular basis, we were always running the risk of losing valuable samples that could contribute to important research in gorilla and wildlife conservation. Of course, trying to generate and send field reports with the power going out frequently was endlessly frustrating for the DR Congo team too. We’ve even had to conduct emergency surgery by headlight when one of the Congo bloodhounds recently swallowed a rock and was suffering from a life-threatening intestinal obstruction. Regional Manager Dr. Jan Ramer, Dr. Martin and I worked through the night with little light and fortunately, we were able to save the bloodhound’s life. 

On behalf of the DRC team, I would like to say a huge thank you to Garry Weber. Through your generous gift, our DRC team now has a permanent power supply and we are very proud to join the worldwide work style. Your generosity has not only made a difference in the lives of our field team, but in eastern gorilla conservation as a whole. Be Blessed!"

DRC Head Veterinarian Dr. Eddy Kambale with the new generator.

 

Monday
Dec082014

Dr. Jean Felix's Tool Use Observation Published in American Journal of Primatology

During a routine health check of Kwitonda group in May 2013, Dr. Jean Felix had the incredible opportunity to witness the first documented incidence of tool use for food acquisition by mountain gorillas. His observation was recently published in the American Journal of Primatology under the title "Tool Use for Food Acquisition in a Wild Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei)". The following are excerpts from the article discussing Dr. Jean Felix's observation and tool use in great apes:

"Kwitonda group consists of 23 idividuals: three silverbacks (12-year-old male), one blackback (8-12-year-old male), seven adult females (≥8-year-old female), two subadults (6-8 year-old), three juveniles (3.5-6-year-old), and seven infants (<3.5-year-old). The group has been monitored in Rwanda since 2004, and ranges between Rwebeya stream and Kanyabihunyira hill, primarily in the Neoboutonia Forest and the bamboo zone. A routine health check, including behavioral observations, was performed by one veterinarian and two trackers on May 14, 2013 (the end of the main rainy season) in the Neoboutonia Forest at 7389 feet (2252 m.) altitude.

During the 2 hr monitoring visit, Kigoma, the second ranking silverback, was observed to use his left hand to collect driver ants (Dorylus sp.) from a hole in the ground. When he first inserted his hand into the hole, he quickly withdrew it and ran from the hole while shaking his left arm, presumably to remove the biting ants."

Kigoma, second ranking silverback of Kwitonda group, searching for ants.

Silverback Kigoma using his left hand to collect driver ants from a hole in the ground.

Driver ants in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

"Lisanga, a juvenile female, was approximately 6m away from Kigoma at this time and observed him eating the ants and running away. She then approached the hole and watched the ants entering and exiting the hole for approximately 2 min. She proceeded to insert her left hand into the hole, but quickly withdrew her hand covered in ants, shaking her arm vigorously, again presumably due to painful ant bites. She was then observed to select a piece of wood off the ground that was approximately 20 cm long and 2 cm wide at one end, 1 cm wide at the other. The piece of wood was a freshly broken branch, thought to be from a tree found 2 m from the ant hole. She inserted the stick into the hole and then withdrew the stick, licking the ants off of the stick. After licking the ants off the stick, Lisanga ran away shaking her left hand to remove the still biting ants. No other gorillas appeared to have witnessed Lisanga using the stick nor were any other gorillas observed trying to eat ants during this observation period."

Juvenile female Lisanga uses a stick to "fish" for driver ants.

Juvenile Lisanga "fishing" for driver ants.Juvenile Lisanga "fishing" for driver ants.

"Though not related, Lisanga and Kigoma are frequently found together during group observations. They have been observed moving together, grooming each other during the daily resting period, and copulating at a distance from Akarevuro, the leading silverback of the group. Lisanga is known to be a curious individual; for example, one anecdotal report details her showing more than casual interest in a researcher's bag, quietly approaching behind the researcher and attempting to take the bag away."

"This is the first time tool use has been reported in a wild mountain gorilla despite the intensive monitoring of this subspecies. The described tool use event is characterized as idiosyncratic and can, in part, be explained by Lisanga's curious nature as she is known to have an investigative personality. Furthermore, Leca et al. (2010) mentioned that, despite the numerous examples of socially transmitted tool use innovations in several non-human primate species, it should be noted that only a subset of such innovations become tradition and a large part of whether this happens likely depends on cost-benefit considerations. For wild mountain gorillas, ants are not a significant part of their diet perhaps because they do not offer substantial nutritional value per mass ingested, because other food sources are readily available, and/or because they are difficult to obtain without getting bitten. Mountain gorilla diet consists mainly of wild celery, bamboo, thistles, stinging nettles, and some fruit; they are rarely observed to feed on ants - as such, there is not a strong drive for mountain gorillas to use tools to collect ants in a "self maintenance" context... as ants only make up a very minute proportion of their diet, there is lilttle need nor evolutionary advantage for mountain gorillas to seek out the use of tools to obtain them."

Tool use is well-documented among wild chimpanzees. And captive orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos have all been observed using tools in a variety of contexts for food extraction. However, Dr. Jean Felix's observation was the first ever report of tool use for food acquisition by a wild gorilla and Gorilla Doctors is proud to have contributed to this important piece of primatological research.


Tuesday
Nov252014

Orphan Chimp Regaining Health After Poaching Ordeal

The infant chimpanzee who was confiscated from poachers by Rwandan police on November 15th is slowly growing more confident and healthy under the attentive care of Gorilla Doctors Rwanda veterinary team and his three dedicated caregivers at the Kinigi orphan care facility.

The orphan male chimpanzee, currently receiving medical treatment in Kinigi, Rwanda.

The youngster is still fearful at times, and takes to hiding under his blankets and towels when feeling insecure. When caregivers attempt to pick him up, he often times tries to bite, but is slowly allowing them to groom him. He is eating bananas and drinking juice, but Drs. Jan and Noel’s initial exam revealed he is still very emaciated and anemic with high numbers of intestinal parasites in his fecal sample. The new orphan was given a deworming medication on November 17th and a full quarantine exam on Monday, November 24.

Dr. Jan gives the chimp infant some juice.

Still very fearful, the infant prefers to hide under a towel much of the time.

Here is Dr. Jan’s report:

“The infant is emaciated, with muscle wasting on all four limbs and prominent vertebra and hip bones. His hair coat is in poor condition and there are scabs on his back associated with hair matted with feces and urine. His abdomen appears to be bloated and a fecal float revealed high numbers of strongyle and strongyloides eggs and larvae. Bloodwork indicates anemia, hypoprotienemia, and leukocytosis characterized by neutrophilia. The anemia and hypoproteinemia may be related to heavy internal parasite infection and malnutrition while the leukocytosis is consistent with stress, inflammation and/or infection. Because his age is estimated to be at least 3 years based on dentition, he may not require or accept milk or formula, and may take longer to accept his situation with human caregivers. A feeding protocol was implemented based on PASA recommendations to include sources of protein like Sosoma, porridge/biscuits, and various fruits and vegetables.”

The chimp orphan is slowly regaining his health at the Kinigi orphan care facility.

Drs. Jan and Noel completed the quarantine exam on Monday and obtained an accurate body weight, confirmed his age through dentition, rechecked his blood and fecal samples, administered a TB test and vaccinations.  

As this orphan continues to recover, he will be visually assessed every other day by Gorilla Doctors and will continue to receive round-the-clock attention and companionship from his caregivers. 

To read about the infant chimp’s confiscation from poachers, click here.

Monday
Nov242014

Juvenile Mountain Gorilla Mihanda Freed from Wire Snare

Mihanda, a female juvenile mountain gorilla who lives in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, was freed from a wire snare in an intervention led by Uganda Field Vet Dr. Fred, with support from the Uganda Wildlife Authority. 

Mihanda was found by UWA rangers early Friday morning near her night nest, struggling to free herself from the snare. The other members of Habinyanja group were reportedly agitated, with silverback Makara charging the field team repeatedly. Even though the situation was tense, the rangers managed to cut the wire where the snare was tied to a tree so that Mihanda could move away from the site. Gorilla Doctors was notified immediately and Dr. Fred began packing his intervention kits and preparing to trek up that afternoon to remove the wire snare remnant from her hand and administer medical treatment.

Juvenile mountain gorilla Mihanda of Habinyanja group.

Here is Dr. Fred’s report: 

“Habinyanja group was ranging in the Kinyambeho area of the park on Friday in thick vegetation near the Ihihizo river. Joining me on this intervention was the Warden of Bwindi Park, Head UWA tracker Tito and UWA ranger/guide Miel, as well as Gorilla Doctors support staff Isaac and our porter, Amon.  When our team arrived to the group, many of the gorillas were feeding, but a few individuals, including silverback Makara, were watching over the ensnared juvenile. Makara charged us when we first arrived, but later moved back into the vegetation.

As Mihanda moved around within the group, she raised her left hand frequently and struggled to remove the wire in vain. She hid the hand from curious infants who approached her to inspect the snare. Mihanda’s body condition was good; she appeared to be well hydrated, her abdomen was ¾ full and she was bright, alert and responsive. Her fingers were swollen and bleeding however, and she had a wound on her right elbow. 

The snare wrapped around Mihanda's fingers on her left hand.

I darted Mihanda with anesthesia to begin the intervention and she was fully sedated at 3:30pm. Though some of the group members charged when Mihanda was darted, they moved off quickly into the vegetation. 

Dr. Fred preps for the snare intervention.

During the intervention, I removed the wire, cleaned and flushed her wounds, administered antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications and collected samples for testing and future research. 

Dr. Fred cleans Mihanda's wounds with iodine.

The wire cut into the tissue on Mihanda's fingers.

The intervention took just over 30 minutes and her recovery from the anesthesia was uneventful. She was feeding shortly after waking up.”

Mihanda waking up from the anesthesia after the intervention is complete.

The UWA rangers will continue to monitor Mihanda and report any changes in behavior or signs of infection, but this young female should make a full recovery.

Snare incidents seem to be on the rise in the region: this is the 10th snare intervention that Gorilla Doctors has completed this year in the three countries where we work, Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Please help us make sure we have the resources necessary to intervene and treat every ensnared eastern gorilla by making a donation to support Gorilla Doctors on our secure website:

Monday
Nov172014

Young Silverback Muturengere Injured Defending Isimbi Group

Young silverback Muturengere was recently injured defending his group from an intruding lone silverback in Volcanoes National Park. During Dr. Jean Felix’s veterinary assessment on November 12, he observed the leader of Isimbi group interacting yet again with another silverback, Gicurasi of Pablo group. 
13-year-old silverback Muturengere, leader of Isimbi group.

Four of the six Isimbi group females (Isura, Poppy, Ruhuka, and Africa) came from Pablo group but were sticking close to their leader during the nonviolent, 2-hour interaction. Muturengere’s wounds from the previous altercation were clearly painful and he was unable to display and chestbeat. However, the wounds were clean and healing on their own, with no signs of infection.

Muturengere with two females from Isimbi group in Volcanoes National Park.

Muturengere has had a tough year, first being thrust into the leadership role at the very young age of 13 after dominant silverback Getty died unexpectedly and then overcoming a respiratory infection likely exacerbated by the stress of trying to lead a group on his own. Though he had some difficulty convincing the females of the group to accept him as the dominant silverback at first, he has proven himself to be a very capable leader and gradually aquired a few additional females and even sired 2 offspring! 

Muturengere and Isimbi group in Volcanoes National Park.

Two days after Dr. Jean Felix’s initial assessment, RDB trackers contacted Gorilla Doctors to report that Muturengere was not eating and that his wounds did not appear to be healing well. The Head Rwanda Field Vet returned to Isimbi group and found the silverback and his group members in the Gasizi area of the park. Though Muturengere’s wounds were numerous (five lacerations on the right arm, many smaller lacerations on his left hand), they were clean and showed no sign of infection. He was using both arms and hands normally when moving and eating and even displayed a few times during Dr. Jean Felix’s observation. An intervention was not deemed necessary, however the silverback will continue to be monitored closely until he makes a full recovery.

**Muturengere and his group are featured in a documentary about the work of Gorilla Doctors on CBC's The Nature of Things. To learn more about this documentary, click here.**