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

 

Past Journal Entries

Tuesday
Jun232015

Vets Capture Beautiful Moments in Health Check Photography

Every week, our hard working field veterinarians are climbing through thick vegetation, up mountainous terrain to reach the gorilla groups, camera in tow. The foundation of Gorilla Doctors work is routine health monitoring—visually observing the members of gorilla groups on a regular basis to check for signs of illness or injury. The team visits every habituated mountain and Grauer's gorilla group every month to perform a thorough visual health check. During a routine health check, the veterinarian observes each member of the gorilla group in order to check a variety of health parameters. In addition to the careful notes recorded on the condition of each gorilla, the veterinarians also photograph each individual, not only to document any injuries and ailments but also to create a long-term database of photos of the habituated groups. In the last month, Drs. Julius, Eddy, Fred, Martin, and Noel captured some beautiful photos during their health checks and we thought we would share some with you!

Dr. Julius's photo of Amahoro group members lounging in the sun in Volcanoes National Park.

An infant mountain gorilla in Kabirizi group climbs a tree to get a better view in Virunga National Park.

Members of Nkuringo group huddle around dominant silverback Rafiki in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

Dr. Noel captures dominant silverback Isabukuru climbing the buffalo wall that borders Volcanoes National Park.

Elusive lone Grauer's gorilla silverback Mugaruka captured by Dr. Martin in Kahuzi Biega National Park.

Young silverback Kanamaharagi, who is currently leading a subgroup of Bageni group in Virunga National Park.

Dr. Fred captures two new mothers in Mubare group resting with their babies in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Love the photos our veterinarians are snapping every month? Considering making a donation to help them get the field gear they need to continue to trek to the groups and document the gorillas each week!

Tuesday
Jun162015

Injured Orphan Kalonge Healing Well Reports Dr. Eddy

Dr. Eddy made the trip to Rumangabo this week to check on orphan Grauer's gorilla Kalonge, who broke her femur when she fell from a tree in her enclosure at the Senkwekwe Center on May 12 (Read about Dr. Eddy's initial assessment here.)

Our Head DRC Vet reports that Kalonge is healing really well. She is bearing some weight on the injured leg and climbing through the treetops effortlessly. Dr. Eddy will continue to monitor her recovery in the coming weeks. In the meantime, here are some photos of Kalonge climbing through the trees!

Kalonge climbs a tree in her enclosure at the Senkwekwe Center.

Kalonge's broken leg is healing well as she effortlessly climbs into the treetops at the Senkwekwe Center.

Kalonge rests on a tree branch in her enclosure.

Thursday
Jun042015

Lulengo and Mapuwa Groups Interact, Silverbacks Face Off

While Dr. Eddy was on Mt. Tshia last week, Dr. Martin was in the Mikeno Sector of Virunga National Park assessing the health of the 31 mountain gorillas in the Lulengo and Mapuwa groups. There was an interaction between the two groups during Dr. Martin’s visit and when he arrived to the group, the four silverbacks were facing off. Dominant silverback Lulengo was outnumbered though, as he faced down the Mapuwa groups silverbacks (Mapuwa, Vuyekure and Mambo). Check out the amazing photos that Dr. Martin took during his health check:

Dominant silverback Mapuwa

Silverbacks Mapuwa and Mambo and blackback Gourba

Dominant silverback Lulengo.

Silverback Mvuyekure

Half of Mapuwa group remained behind silverbacks Mapuwa, Vuyekure and Mambo during the interaction, while the other half moved behind dominant silverback Lulengo.  After 45 minutes of posturing, all of the gorillas began to settle down to rest and feed, with the infants and juveniles from either group playing with one another. Adult female Bitangi’s one-month old infant looked to be strong and in good health.

Adult females and infants watch the interaction.Silverback Lulengo keeps an eye on his family members during the interaction

Bitangi carrying her 1-month-old infant on her back.

Fortunately, this interaction was peaceful and did not result in any injuries. We look forward to observing how the group demographics shift as these two families continue to range in close proximity.

Wednesday
Jun032015

Mt. Tshiabirimu's Katsabara Group Visited by Dr. Eddy

Dr. Eddy made the long trip to Mt. Tshiabirimu last week to assess the health of the remaining six gorillas living on this isolated mountain in DRC. The tiny group is comprised of dominant silverback Katsabara, adult female Mwengesyali (Mwenge for short), and her baby, blackback Mwasa (who will soon be a silverback), blackback Mukokya, and Kambula (gender is still unknown). Below is Dr. Eddy's report from the health checks:

"Three ICCN rangers, Keita, Jonas and Christophe, and myself left Burusi patrol post around 7am on Thursday morning, reaching Kalibina at 8:30am where we were joined by three additional trackers, Pharaon, Kihurania and Nzoka. The camp’s cook, Mutsuya, prepared our breakfast and we left Kalibina camp at 8:55am to begin trekking the gorillas in the dense bamboo. We found many discarded, partially eaten bamboo shoots on our path and it appeared that the group had been feeding in the area in the late evening of the previous day. After a few more minutes of hiking, we heard the gorillas moving through the bamboo. We followed their trail and found blackback Mwasa and Kambula at 9:40am. These two gorillas were calm, eating bamboo shoots and not moving much as there was abundant food in the area.

Kambula of Katsabara group.

During the observation, we heard silverback Katsabara charging in the valley below us, so we decided to trek to him as he can move very fast when he hears people nearby. After a short walk, we located 5 night nests where they had slept the night before.

Blackback Mwasa and Kambula preceded us on the trail as they were moving to join Katsabara. They were moving slowly, preventing us from quickly finding Katsabara.

Blackback (soon to be silverback) Mwasa.

Once we did see the dominant silverback, we found him charging and chasing adult female Mwenge, before settling down in thick vegetation to eat bamboo shoots. Mwenge’s baby, who has tentatively been named Ndekesiri by trackers, was moving with his/her mother, and in our brief observation, appeared to be in good health. Before the observation came to an end, blackback Mukokya wandered up and settled right in front of us to eat bamboo shoots.

Blackback Mukokya of Katsabara group.

The following day, we found the gorillas sharing the area with a troop of 15 owl-faced monkeys (Cercopithecus hamlini). The monkeys were also feeding on bamboo shoots and scampering around the bamboo.

An owl-faced monkey on Mt. Tshiabirimu

Silverback Katsabara was more excitable during this health check, and charged us at close proximity. In addition, we could hear blackback Mwasa charging in the valley below. Katsabara was chasing adult female Mwenge, who was screaming and moving quickly to hide in the dense undergrowth, with her baby running behind her. Kambula and blackback Mwasa were more mellow, calming feeding and resting in front of us.

Kambula lounging in the bamboo forest.

While I was with the Mt. Tshia rangers, I took the opportunity to brief the team on IMPACT data collection and gorilla health monitoring and visitation rules to protect the gorillas' health. The rangers collected observational data while we were with the group on both days.

ICCN rangers collecting data for IMPACT.

During the two health checks, all six gorillas were observed and were visually in good health, including Mwenge’s new baby. Trackers are still working to determine the gender of Kambula, though they believe that she/he behaves more like a female than a male gorilla."

 

Thursday
May282015

Houston Zoo Continues Critical Support & Highlights Gorilla Doctors Work

The Houston Zoo, a long-time supporter of Gorilla Doctors, celebrated the opening of their brand new gorilla exhibit this month. The $28 million exhibit is home to 7 western lowland gorillas and, at 4,000 square feet, is said to be the largest gorilla exhibit in the world. Zoo staff chose to highlight the opening of the exhibit by featuring the work of their gorilla conservation partners, Gorilla Doctors and the GRACE sanctuary for Grauer’s gorillas.

The new Houston Zoo gorilla exhibit.The Houston Zoo began their support of Gorilla Doctors in 2009 and for the past 6 years, a portion of every dollar spent by Zoo visitors has gone directly towards supporting wild gorilla conservation. In addition to the $250,000+ the Zoo has donated to Gorilla Doctors since 2009, their staff also supply our veterinarians with medical supplies and tracking and monitoring equipment. A portion of the Houston Zoo's donation has been allocated for our Employee Health Program, which allows trackers, rangers and other national park workers who come into close contact with the gorillas (as well as their family members), to receive health screening from a doctor and periodic deworming. In fact, in the first half of 2015 alone, 2,300 gorilla conservation workers and their family members received health checks and medicine from a doctor, thanks, in large part, to the Houston Zoo.

National Park rangers who have participated in the Gorilla Doctors Employee Health Program.
In October of last year, Houston Zoo hosted both the Gorilla Doctors annual board meeting and their annual conservation fundraising gala “Feed Your WildLife: Celebrating Gorillas in the Wild”, which raised $650,000 for the Houston Zoo’s gorilla conservation partners.

Gorilla Doctors Directors and Board Members at the Houston Zoo fundraiser gala.
Houston Zoo staff, including Gorilla Doctors Board Member Peter Riger, spent three weeks on the ground with our veterinarians in March to better understand our needs and the scope of our work. While in Rwanda, Zoo staff members visited Agashya group as they feasted on eucalyptus on the fringe of Volcanoes National Park. (Click here to read the Houston Zoo blog)

Silverback Agashya eats eucalyptus outside of Volcanoes National Park. Image © Houston Zoo

Houston's KRPC Channel 2 News anchorman Andy Cerota traveled to Rwanda in March as well to visit with our vets and feature their hard work in the field in an hour-long special.

Anchorman Andy Cerota treks to see the mountain gorillas in Rwanda.

 "The Houston Zoo is our guardian angel" said Gorilla Doctors Co-Director Dr. Mike Cranfield. Adds Co-Director Dr. Kirsten Gilardi “The Houston Zoo is one of our most valued partners. Its commitment to wildlife conservation is so impressive, and is such a great example for the world on how zoos are so important, for people and for wildlife.”