Early on March 6 Dr. Eddy received a call from Virunga National Park that silverback Bukima, the leader of Rugendo group, was staying longer than usual in his night nest, and had been observed coughing and having a runny nose for the past two days.  Gorilla Doctors mobilized quickly to check on Bukima and his family members.

Dr. Martin went to the park that same morning, and after meeting with rangers and trackers for a briefing and update, he trekked into the forest to find Bukima and perform a veterinary health assessment.

The team found the group in the Kinyangurube sector of the park.  Dr. martin saw that Bukima was lethargic and still in his night nest.  He had a loud, productive cough, nasal discharge, and his abdomen was noticeably flat, most likely from not eating.  Based on these observations, Dr. Martin determined that Bukima was suffering from moderately severe respiratory illness, and was at risk of developing a complicating secondary bacterial infection.  In consultation with park staff, Dr. Martin made the decision to treat Bukima with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory, which he delivered via dart.  Bukima was apparently feeling so low that he didn’t particularly protest the darting procedure.  Right after Dr. Martin darted Bukima, a nearby forest elephant vocalized, which prompted Bukima’s family group to quickly gather around Bukima for protection – fortunately, Bukima had already received his medicine.


Dr. Martin visited Rugendo group the next day for follow-up observations.  he observed Bukima feeding and appearing to be more active than during previous visits.  He was still coughing but his runny nose had cleared up and he was eating.  It appears that Dr. Martin’s treatment helped Bukima turn the corner.

Park trackers are continuing to closely monitor Bukima and the rest of Rugendo group for further respiratory illness.