Regional Manager Dr. Jan Ramer Says Farewell to Gorilla DoctorsBy Gorilla Doctors Staff on Tuesday, January 20th, 2015 in Blog.
After a year in central Africa overseeing all aspects of Gorilla Doctors activities on the ground, Dr. Jan Ramer will return to the United States on January 22 to reunite with her family and continue her work as a wildlife veterinarian for The Wilds, a private, non-profit conservation center located on 10,000 acres of reclaimed mine land in rural southeastern Ohio. The Gorilla Doctors team is sad to see her go, but grateful for all of her hard work over the last year to keep the programs in all three countries running smoothly. Below, Dr. Jan discusses highlights and special moments from her last year in Africa.
by Dr. Jan Ramer
Saying goodbye to Gorilla Doctors in Africa this week is bittersweet and a bit surreal. I love this project and team, and of course the gorillas. And I am so very honored to have been able to be a part of this team twice in the past 5 years. But when my daughter Sara and her husband Aaron announced that they are expecting our first grandchild, I melted, and made the difficult decision to move back to the US to welcome this baby into our family. So on Thursday my little Rwandan pup Ama and I fly back to chilly Indiana and I’ll start wrapping my head around my new job at the Wilds in Ohio and start planning how to best spoil this grandchild.
My head is filled with memories as I reflect on my time with Gorilla Doctors this year. One event that stands out for me is when we moved Grauer’s gorilla orphan Ihirwe from Kinigi, Rwanda to the GRACE sanctuary in DRC, working with our partners from ICCN, GRACE, RDB and the UN. I clearly remember her rescue in 2011 – poor little frightened gorilla at a jail in Gisenyi. Over the course of several years, she grew into a playful juvenile, attached to her caregivers at Kinigi. I wish we could have explained to her that she was going to a place where she could be with other gorillas when Eddy and I loaded her onto the UN helicopter that flew her from Goma to GRACE – she was brave but frightened during that trip. But she integrated so well, and I loved seeing her interacting with the rest of her GRACE family when I visited a few months ago.
In Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Fred and I had fun with a film crew for Animal Planet’s Biggest and Baddest series early in the year, and we learned to be patient during the retakes! I also got to visit the Nkuringo mountain gorilla group in Bwindi for the first time. There is a particularly long, steep hill involved in visiting that group, and I have to admit that the very first time I looked downhill I was a bit afraid, but I made it down and back several times this year!
Now that security has returned to eastern DR Congo, I’ve enjoyed working with Drs. Eddy and Martin on cases throughout the Mikeno sector, and of course loved seeing mountain gorilla orphans Maisha, Ndeze, Ndakasi and Matabishi at Senkwekwe, not to mention Andre, Patrick and Richard, their dedicated caregivers. I’ve always loved the Congohounds, and am glad Eddy, Martin and I were able to help hound puppy Bonus at a critical time. It was my first time to do surgery at midnight by headlamp.
This was a year of change for Gorilla Doctors as the team worked to put in place a new structure and new accounting system – it was wonderful to see the growth of our teams as things fell into place.
I also loved working with eager young veterinarians and our team during all staff rounds, seminars with specialists like Veterinary Pathologist Dr. Tanja Zabka and Veterinary Surgeon Dr. Donna Shettko, and assisting with several dog/cat spay and neuter opportunities. It was my great pleasure to conduct a two-day avian medicine seminar for the dedicated young veterinarians involved with the Conserving Endangered Crowned Cranes in Rwanda project led by former Gorilla Doctor and ROLEX Award for Enterprise recipient Dr. Olivier Nsengimana. It was my privilege to help with this project on several occasions – thank you, Olivier. [Stay tuned for our upcoming blog about this collaboration!]
I have absolutely loved working with Conservation Heritage Turambe and with the Imbabazi Foundation and Family. It was thrilling to watch my cycling friends at Team Rwanda win the Tour of Rwanda! The list goes on and on – so many memories of wonderful times with wonderful friends and colleagues.
I write this as I am looking out over Lake Kivu from Goma and I am filled with gratitude at the gift I’ve been given living and working in this region. I shall miss everyone – the team, the project, our wonderful partners, and of course the gorillas. But I will be back – leaving a piece of my heart and soul here.