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.
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."
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!