By Dr. Dawn Zimmerman

Rwanda Development Board Volcanoes National Park Veterinary Warden Elisabeth Nyirakaragire reported adult female Gukunda, of Sabyinyo group, was observed with an injured thumb at the metacarpal-phalangeal joint on July 9th.  The digit was reportedly “not completely cut” and she was still using the hand.  As a routine health check was already scheduled for the following day for Sabyinyo group, a veterinary assessment was planned.

I completed my observation with two RDB trackers, Faustin and Vincent, between 7:50 and 9:15am. The group was found in the Cyakigarama area of the park, close to the DRC border, at an elevation of 2667 meters.

The group was initially found in the bamboo, but later came out into a clearing to eat the water-laden roots of Carduus. All 16 gorillas were observed and appeared to be in good health, with the exception of injuries to Gukunda and Shirimpumu, reportedly sustained on July 6 (and first observed on July 7) during an intergroup fight. 

Adult female Gukunda and her infant Itabaza.

Gukunda’s right thumb appears to have been severed, with only a flap of dried skin +/- musculature remaining; minimal exposed bone was observed at the cut surface of the granulation bed.  The wound is dry without infection, and a clean granulation bed at the 1st metacarpal-phalangeal (MCP) joint is already established. 

Adult female Gukunda’s severed thumb

She is using her right hand normally during feeding.  We expect the flap of skin to fall off with time and the wound end to granulate in via secondary intention. As uncomplicated healing is expected, a medical intervention is not warranted at this time but trackers will continue to monitor Gukunda for any signs of infection. 

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