Gorilla Doctors dedicate significant resources to help rescue and provide medical care to orphaned mountain and Grauer's gorillas. All of the 19 mountain and Grauer's gorilla orphans that have been treated by the Gorilla Doctors over the years were orphaned by human attacks on gorillas in the DRC. The political volatility in the region affects the security of the parks and makes it possible for poachers and armed groups to operate inside the forest. Because of their perceived value as exotic pets, young gorillas may be captured by poachers hoping to sell them on the black market. In order to take a baby gorilla alive, poachers usually kill the animal’s mother and any other gorilla trying to protect it.
When a gorilla is confiscated, the orphan is brought to an interim care facility where it can be evaluated by the Gorilla Doctors. Confiscated gorillas are often suffering from dehydration, mental distress, and wounds related to their capture and captivity. Our veterinary teams have successfully treated orphans with trauma ranging from bullet wounds and rope burns to gangrenous limbs. As a result of stress and coming into contact with human germs, new orphans sometimes also develop respiratory disease, which can progress to pneumonia. Depending on the severity, respiratory disease is treated with antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, and intravenous fluids.
Dedicated human caretakers look after the orphans 24 hours a day to help them to regain their strength and recover from their mental trauma. While the gorillas remain in human care, they receive regular physical exams and treatment for illness and injury. The Gorilla Doctors are also on hand when orphans move from interim care facilities to sanctuaries. Whether or not these orphans will ever be returned to the wild will be a decision made by the wildlife authorities, and based on careful consideration of their chances for survival.
Currently Gorilla Doctors is responsible for the health of four mountain gorilla orphans that live at the Senkwekwe sanctuary in Virunga National Park, DRC, where they are looked after by Virunga National Park caretakers. Dr. Eddy Kambale is their primary Gorilla Doctor. He checks on the orphans monthly for routine care and he or another Gorilla Doctor is always on-call in case of any health emergencies. Go to our Orphan Guardianship page to read about the mountain gorilla orphans Ndakasi, Ndeze, Maisha, and Matabishi and learn how you can help support their health care.
In August 2011, the Grauer’s gorilla orphan, Ihirwe, came into Gorilla Doctors’ care when she was seized from poachers who had smuggled her into Rwanda from DRC. The 2-year-old Ihirwe resides at Gorilla Doctors' interim care facility in Kinigi, Rwanda, where she is cared for by Gorilla Doctors Caretakers Innocent Kabendera and Dieudonnee Munyembabazi and Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International Caretaker Jean De Dieu Ngilira. In September 2012, Gorilla Doctors aided in the rescue of two additional Grauer's gorillas, 9-month-old Isangi and four-month-old Baraka, who are now at the GRACE (Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education) center for orphaned Grauer's gorillas in Kasugho, DRC. In the coming months, the Grauer's gorilla orphan Ihirwe will also be transferred to the GRACE sanctuary.