By Dr. Julius Nziza

Gorilla Doctors is deeply saddened to report that silverback Isabukuru died on Sunday, March 26 in Volcanoes National Park (Rwanda).  He was the 24-year old half-brother of Cantsbee, caregiver to several orphaned juveniles in his group, and a formidable silverback in his prime.

Isabukuru had battled intermittent diarrhea for many months, but until recently had maintained his weight and normal activity level despite this periodic illness.  But over the last few months, Isabukuru’s condition deteriorated, so a meeting was held last week with our partners at the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, where it was decided that a veterinary intervention was necessary.  Our team reached Isabukuru on March 24 and after immobilizing him with anesthetics, we conducted a full physical examination and administered antibiotics, parasiticides, vitamins, and fluids.  Despite our efforts to help him, the ailing silverback was eventually left behind by his group and he died two days later.

Our veterinarians performed a postmortem examination earlier this week and discovered severe lesions in Isabukuru’s gastrointestinal tract – evidence of chronic gastritis and gastroenterocolitis.  Multiple samples were collected from Isabukuru’s carcass for further analysis.  We are partnering with laboratories and experts to more closely identify the underlying causes that may have contributed to Isabukuru’s death, which may also help explain other silverback mortality in recent years.  We hope to be able to use this information to prevent deaths like these in the future.