Mukunda in fieldOne Health Medicine

We approach gorilla medicine from a “one health” perspective—a belief that the health of one species is inextricably linked to that of its entire ecosystem, including humans and other animal species. Research studies show that gorillas can become ill and even die as a result of coming into contact with zoonotic germs transmitted by people and other animals. The relationship is dynamic, given the movements of people and animals in and out of the national parks, creating countless opportunities for disease exchange. Conservation workers and tourists spend time with habituated gorilla groups on a daily basis. Gorillas can also venture outside the national parks, coming into contact with local people and their domestic animals. Gorilla Doctors cannot ensure the long-term health of mountain gorillas without addressing human and domestic animal health as well. 

Gorilla Doctors first began developing human and domestic animal health projects in the late 1990s. Gorilla Doctors constantly looks for ways to strengthen its ongoing One Health-oriented programs and develop new approaches for conserving gorillas through new initiatives, which to date include: 

  • Facilitating annual health screenings, follow up care, and health education for people who work in the national parks through our Gorilla Conservation Employee Health Program.
  • Providing rabies vaccines for dogs and cats living near gorilla habit and educating their owners about best pet care practices.
  • Conducting pathological examinations of tissues collected during post mortem exams of deceased gorillas and other wildlife with which gorillas share the forest to determine the cause of death.
  • Surveying live wildlife for pathogens that could be risky for gorillas.
  • Conducting research to investigate the links between the health of gorillas, humans, and other animals.
  • Making recommendations to government and local authorities about best practices for managing a healthy gorilla population based on research findings.
  • Providing African professionals and students working in the area of veterinary science and wildlife conservation with opportunities for training and research.
  • Connecting veterinary, medical, public health, and PhD students from UC Davis and other universities with volunteer and research opportunities in Africa with Gorilla Doctors and its partner organizations.

When time and resources permits it, the Gorilla Doctors also consult on livestock and pet health issues in the region. In 2009, Gorilla Doctors helped establish a local-owned business in Rwanda producing alternative fuel briquettes composed of recycled materials as a way to combat deforestation. While that business is now independent, we continue to support the project as a client.