Gorilla Health Research
Samples for medical evaluation and research are collected opportunistically when possible. When a gorilla requires a complete examination under anesthesia, a variety of samples are collected, including throat and nasal swabs, blood, urine, and feces. When an animal dies, a complete post mortem exam is done, and biological samples are collected and sent to our veterinary pathologist Dr. Linda Lowenstine, at UC Davis, for examination under a microscope. By examining gorilla pathology, Gorilla Doctors has been able to identify health trends in the population and in some cases trace the origin of certain health problems. For example, Gorilla Doctors was able to determine that two mountain gorillas from Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda died as a result of exposure to a human virus.
Samples are housed in each country, and historically, duplicates have been exported to the US for storage in our biological resource center (biobank) at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. Biobank samples are made are available to veterinary scientists interested in improving the health of this endangered species. Many biobank samples are evaluated by scientists worldwide to track the health of the gorillas.
Domestic Animal Health Research
The Gorilla Doctors support graduate and PhD student research projects examining zoonotic diseases in domestic animals living near gorilla habitat. Such projects help the Gorilla Doctors to understand possible disease threats within the domestic animal population and potential routes of transmission to gorillas and wildlife. This knowledge helps us to make recommendations to the national park and local authorities on ways to improve health and productivity among domestic animals and cut off routes for disease transmission.