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.

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Past Journal Entries


Rescued Chimp Orphan Kindu Receives Veterinary Care at Lwiro

On May 12th around 4pm, Kahuzi Biega National Park staff received a call from Bukavu Harbor authorities, reporting that a military man was caught trying to smuggle an infant chimpanzee to sell on the black market. The park staff responded quickly and transported the infant to Lwiro, a DRC sanctuary for rescued primates. Dr. Martin worked with Kahuzi Biega National Park veterinarian Dr. Kizito to assess and treat the infant chimpanzee once she was safe and settled at Lwiro. The female infant was named Kindu after the nearby village where she was reportedly poached.

Infant chimpanzee Kindu in DRC

Dr. Martin reports that the baby was weak, dehydrated, and traumatized but had a good appetite and was rehydrated with lactated ringers, juice and milk. She weighs just 4kg and tested positive for intestinal parasites and had a productive cough.

Orphan chimp Kindu resting and receiving much needed fluids at Lwiro.

Dr. Martin administered antibiotics to treat the respiratory infection and deworming medication to treat the intestinal parasites. Caretakers will continue to closely monitor her condition at Lwiro and report progress to Drs. Eddy and Martin in the coming days and weeks. Once she is a little bit older, Kindu will join a group of rescued youngsters that reside at the sanctuary and will continue to receive veterinary care from Gorilla Doctors should she need it in the future.


Lwiro Sanctuary reports that Kindu is beginning to feel much better post-treatment and is even starting to smile and play with her caregivers! Way to go little Kindu!

Orphan chimpanzee Kindu. Image courtesy of Lwiro Primates. www.lwiroprimates.org



Grauer's Orphan Kalonge Fractures Femur in Fall

Kalonge and her caretaker, Babo, at the Senkwekwe Center in DRC. Image by Marcus Westberg/ Life Through A Lens Photography for Gorilla Doctors.

Infant Grauer’s gorilla Kalonge, who was rescued in March 2014 after being caught in a snare outside of Kahuzi Biega National Park, fell while climbing in her outdoor enclosure at the Senkwekwe Center on May 12. Her caretaker, Babo, notified Dr. Eddy that Kalonge fell when she tried to jump from one tree to another. When she landed on the ground, she stayed very still for 45 minutes and wouldn’t let Babo come near her. When she began to move on the ground she was dragging her left leg behind her, but managed to climb back up into the tree.

Dr. Eddy traveled from Goma to Rumangabo to assess Kalonge’s condition at the Senkwekwe Center the following day. When Dr. Eddy arrived, the young orphan was moving around in a tree with ease, but not using her left leg. She was feeding and appeared bright, alert and responsive. When she moved down onto the ground, she dragged the injured leg behind her. When Dr. Eddy tried to approach her, she moved to bite the DRC Head Vet. After the initial observation, Dr. Eddy realized that Kalonge was seriously injured and needed a full exam under anesthesia in order to assess her condition. On Saturday, May 16, Dr. Eddy, along with Gorilla Doctors Co-Director, Dr. Mike Cranfield, completed the examination. Below are notes from the exam:

On Saturday, Kalonge was observed frequently coughing and had nasal discharge and a slight temperature of 99.2F. She had clearly contracted a respiratory infection and was given an antibiotic to help her overcome the illness. To begin the exam, Dr. Eddy sedated Kalonge and she was moved onto the exam table. The vets immediately noticed a large swelling around her left thigh. Upon palpation, it became clear that Kalonge’s femur was broken. While Kalonge was under anesthesia, the vets collected swab and blood samples for testing and future research.
Dr. Eddy palpates Kalonge's leg.Given the circumstances, treatment for Kalonge’s broken femur is limited. “You can’t cast a femur [in a gorilla] since a cast is used to immobilize the joint above and below the fracture… we can’t cast to keep the hip joint immobile like you can with humans.” Orthopedic surgery is not possible considering the facilities at the center, and the risk of infection would be too great. Dr. Mike reports that the fracture is nicely aligned for healing however, and it is being held stable by her strong thigh muscles.

“Kalonge is a tough girl” said Dr. Eddy. “Even with a broken leg, she is still climbing high into the trees, feeding and behaving normally.” Adds Dr. Mike: “she is a pistol. In the end I feel her leg will heal with a very high percentage of function.”

Kalonge's recovery will be monitored closely in the coming weeks by the vets and her caretakers will be available round-the-clock to provide comfort and a high quality, nutritious diet to speed her recovery.

Kalonge recovers from the anesthesia in the arms of her caretaker.


Rugendo Group Battles Respiratory Disease Outbreak

The Rugendo group mountain gorillas have been battling a respiratory disease outbreak since early April, keeping Drs. Eddy and Martin on their toes as they administer treatment to the group members most severely affected by the illness. 

Several group members began to exhibit symptoms of a respiratory infection on April 14th, when the ICCN trackers observed silverback Bukima coughing on the first day, with silverback Kongomani coughing on the next day. As the week progressed, blackback Noel and juvenile Mastaki also began to show symptoms and the Gorilla Doctors were notified for a veterinary assessment.

Silverback Kongomani with nasal discharge.

On April 20, Dr. Eddy traveled from Goma to the Bukima patrol post in Virunga National Park. It is the rainy season and the travel was arduous, particularly on the muddy road near Bukima, and his truck got stuck on three separate occasions. The Head DRC Field Vet eventually made it to his destination and prepared to enter the forest early the following morning.

Rugendo group was ranging in the Kinyagurube area of the park at 2162 meters in altitude on the morning of April 21. The group was resting when Dr. Eddy and the field team arrived. Immediately, six gorillas were observed coughing: silverbacks Kongomani and Bukima, adult female Janja, subadult male Bagambe, juvenile Mastaki and blackback Noel. Silverback Kongomani appeared lethargic and anorexic and he had not moved from his night nest. His cough was deep and laborious and was clearly in need of veterinary treatment.  Dr. Eddy darted the silverback with an antibiotic and in the coming days, administered antibiotics to Bagambe, Baseka, Janja and her infant.

Dr. Eddy prepares medication for the intervention.

Janja resting with her infant

Janja's infant in Rugendo group, Virunga National Park

On April 28, when Dr. Eddy was en route back to Rugendo group, his field team was charged by a lone male buffalo. One of the trackers was severely injured when the buffalo's horn cut into the side of his head. Dr. Eddy administered first aid treatment, stopping the bleeding and wrapping the wound, and he accompanied him back to the patrol post, where an ICCN nurse sutured the wound. Once the tracker was taken care of, Dr. Eddy and the field team returned to the forest to trek Rugendo group.

Dr. Eddy stops the bleeding on a tracker's head injury after being charged by a buffalo.

On May 5, Drs. Eddy and Martin returned to the group to follow up on the sick gorillas. Upon arrival to the group, silverback Kongomani and blackback Noel appeared anxious and were charging and vocalizing. The field team quickly realized that the rest of the group was nowhere to be seen. The two males charged the field team and Drs. Eddy and Martin and the accompanying ICCN trackers retreated. They came upon a trail which led them to an unknown lone silverback. The large male did not charge and seemed habituated to human presence.  Drs. Eddy and Martin observed him for 10 minutes while the silverback fed calmly before leaving to track the rest of Rugendo group. After an hour, the field team located the other group members, none of whom were exhibiting any signs of respiratory illness. The group was calm and feeding on bamboo shoots and Drs. Eddy and Martin reported that each individual was in good visual health.

Kongomani, Janja and her infant resting among the bamboo.

Silverback Bukima and other members of Rugendo group in Virunga National Park.

Second only to trauma (e.g. fatal injuries caused by fights, accidents or snares), infectious disease is the leading cause of death in mountain gorillas, accounting more than 20% of mortality. The most common infection is respiratory disease, which can range from a mild cold to severe pneumonia. For this reason, Gorilla Doctors respond quickly to treat respiratory disease outbreaks to prevent the illness from spreading further in the group and keep any affected individuals from becoming so sick that it could be life threatening.



Welcome Back to Jess Burbridge! 

After three months away on maternity leave, Gorilla Doctors Director of Marketing and Communications has returned to take the reins on the Gorilla Doctors field communications efforts from her homebase in Atlanta, Georgia. With her return, prompt and thorough reporting on all Gorilla Doctors activities will resume. We are also eager to launch our new website, which will feature stunning photographs and the most current information about our work in central Africa.

We would like to thank our team members at UC Davis who pitched in to cover communications efforts while Jess was away: Desiree Aguiar, who handled the social media pages, Justin Cox, who took charge of the monthly E Newsletter, and Matt Blake, who kept our website running smoothly. Also, a big thank you to communications volunteer Michael Morales, who wrote some excellent pieces for our blog!

UC Davis staff Desiree Aguiar, Justin Cox and Matt Blake.


Dr. Martin Reflects on His 'Great Opportunity' Working With Gorilla Doctors

By Michael Morales

Dr. Martin has all the qualities you would want in a veterinary doctor who works with endangered species.

“I’m a gentle man,” said the Gorilla Doctors’ field veterinarian, who works in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “I’m a patriotic person who really loves his country.”

Born and raised in Goma, Dr. Martin Kabuyaya Balyananziu received a degree in veterinary medicine from Lubumbashi University in 2009, later working for international non-governmental organizations and then for the government at the Veterinary Laboratory of Goma. He joined Gorilla Doctors in 2012 – a moment he remembers proudly.

“It was like a reality dream!” he said.

He originally applied for a similar post at Kahuzi-Biega National Park, where Gorilla Doctors was asked by the Park to assist with the recruitment process. Shortly after, Gorilla Doctors was in need of a new field veterinarian to assist Dr. Eddy. That’s when Dr. Martin was hired to join the team in DRC.

Even after three years with Gorilla Doctors, Dr. Martin still cherishes what a rare opportunity it is to work among the mountain and Grauer’s gorillas.

“Working with these exotic animals is not an opportunity given to everyone, so for me as a vet, it was and it still is an honor,” Dr. Martin said. “Working with Gorilla Doctors in particular to save gorillas' lives is a great opportunity.”

Dr. Martin remembers the first time he saw a gorilla in the wild. He was mildly frightened, but being in the company of Dr. Eddy and the park rangers, he knew with time he would be able to approach the gorillas in his daily work.

“The greatest part of my job is every time we are doing an intervention,” he said. “We are facing danger, but we are also saving a gorilla’s life.”

Dr. Martin very much values the equipment they use in the field for gorilla interventions. By purchasing an item from the Gorilla Doctors Amazon wish list, donors can have a tremendous impact. 

“The cameras are crucial,” he said. “Because without photography equipment we can't share our work reality. This photography equipment allows us to have good visual diagnostics. We use the zoom of the camera to observe. We can give good reports with images that can be seen by everybody in the world on our blog.”

Phones are another crucial need.  

“We must communicate between each other to exchange ideas and get technical advice before intervening or reporting cases,” said Dr. Martin. “We need to communicate with parks authorities, and we can use iPhones to send e-mails using the Internet from our phones.”

Even hiking boots are a great help to the teams, which often spend hours walking just to get to the gorillas that may need an intervention.

Doctor Martin hopes that Gorilla Doctors can “become bigger than it is now, enough to cover all the parks in the Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo.”  

He would even like to help cover other endangered wildlife species.