By Molly Feltner, MGVP Communications Officer
On the evening of October 6, Emmanuel de Merode, the Chief Park Warden of Virunga National Park, called Dr. Jan and reported that his rangers had successfully rescued a baby Grauer’s gorilla from poachers and were bringing the infant to the Senkwekwe Center. After hearing rumors of a captive baby gorilla being held in the Walikali area of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a team of rangers led by Christian Shamavu conducted a two-week sting operation that resulted in the arrest three poachers and the confiscation of the baby.
Drs. Jan, Eddy, and Jacques headed to Virunga National Park early the next morning to assess the infant’s health. The doctors found the infant with Christian in an enclosure at the Senkwekwe sanctuary. Mountain gorilla orphans Ndeze and Ndakasi watched the new orphan from a tree in their adjacent enclosure. The baby was curled into a tight ball in Christian’s arms and was looking fearfully at his new surroundings. Christian explained that the gorilla had been kept inside a small backpack for a month.
Despite being visibly stressed, the infant appeared to be in good physical condition except for some dry, flaking skin and lice. Dr. Eddy took a skin sample for testing and gave the infant ivermectin for internal and external parasites. He appears to be about 1.5 years old and weighs 6.3 kilos.
After the exam, Dr. Jan held the infant quietly and he began to relax. She was able to give him some juice and feed him bits of wild celery. He spent the night with Patrick, one of the mountain gorilla caretakers, and two new caretakers arrived today to begin looking after the infant for the next 30 days while he undergoes a quarantine period. The Gorilla Doctors will return in a week to perform a full health exam.
The gorilla was named Shamavu, after Christian Shamavu, the ranger who rescued him.
Here is a video of Drs. Eddy and Jan examining Shamavu:
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