by Dr. Eddy Kambale

On Tuesday, December 11, Gorilla Doctors performed a monitoring visit of Humba group following a report by Virunga National Park Chief Park Warden, Emmanuel De Merode, saying that there were two females who needed a veterinary assessment. One female had an abnormal tissue around her mouth and the second female had an eye discharge. Park rangers have not been able to monitor the mountain gorilla groups in Virunga National Park in the past four months because of M23 rebel activity in and around the park so both Gorilla Doctors and the ICCN (Congolese Park Authority) have been eager to check on these groups.

Our team left Bukima patrol post at 8:30am to begin tracking the group. At 10:19am in the Kanyafumberi area, we found the unused night nests and evidence of an interaction with some diarrheic stool. At 10:30am in the Ndindanyare area, we found the night nests. We checked all 11 night nests and no abnormality was identified.  At 11:24am, we found the group in the Karanda area at an altitude of 2332 meters. 

After a few minutes of observation, it started raining and we stayed under the trees to observe adult females Gato and Gashangi. Gato did not appear to have the eye discharge during this visit and she was behaving normally (eating, moving with the group). 

Adult female Gashangi’s skin lesion around her mouth.

Gashangi was hiding in vegetation during the whole visit but we were able to see the lesion around her mouth. The rash seemed to only affect the skin and had an irregular edge, roughened surface and was raised. The general health of Gashangi is not affected by this skin lesion at the time and she was still feeding and behaving normally. Gashangi’s skin lesion will require careful observation though. If there is no improvement or if the condition continues to get worse, a full intervention with anesthesia will be required to check the lesion. Possible removal of the pseudo membrane will be required to get a sample for diagnosis and determine treatment. 

Dominant Silverback Humba resting.

Dominant silverback Humba was found coughing intermittently and some whitish nose discharge was observed. During our observation, we found that juvenile Semakuba had a fresh wound on his left arm. This was likely from the suspected interaction. Semakuba was limping and not properly using his arm during travel. 

Juvenile Semakuba had a wound on his right forearm.

None of the health conditions of these four mentioned gorillas were life threatening, therefore Gorilla Doctors did not intervene. ICCN trackers will continue to monitor this group as security allows and report any changes in health condition or behavior to Gorilla Doctors vets.

This monitoring visit was safe and successful despite the rainy weather. We were able to observe 13 gorillas in Humba group during this visit.

You can follow the Gorilla Doctors health monitoring efforts on our Facebook page, where we post photos and notes from our monthly visits.

Please consider supporting us by making a secure online donation. Every dollar you give goes to directly supporting our gorilla health programs and One Health initiative. Thank you for your generosity.