Juvenile Buchura resting with her group members.On Tuesday, January 28th, Uganda Wildlife Authority officials contacted Gorilla Doctors to report that Buchura, a juvenile female mountain gorilla in Bwindi’s Oruzogo group, had a poachers’ snare wrapped around her left hand. The rope was tight enough to cause swelling and the young gorilla was observed biting it, trying in vain to get the snare off. Gorilla Doctors immediately mobilized to trek to the group the following day, prepared to intervene. After six arduous treks to Oruzogo group over eleven days between Drs. Fred, Benard, Rachael, Jan, Noel, and Methode, the Gorilla Doctors were finally able to free the young female from the snare. 

The rope snare was wrapped tightly around the hand, causing swelling and damage to the tissue.

Drs. Benard and Rachael, along with a team of UWA rangers, trekked into Bwindi early on the morning of January 29th for the first intervention attempt. Oruzogo group is the most recently habituated group of mountain gorillas in Bwindi however, and the group was under obvious stress when the veterinarians arrived. The gorillas were moving quickly through dense vegetation in an a particularly difficult sector of terrain in the park. Dr. Benard was able to successfully dart Buchura with anesthesia, but his mother, Kakobe quickly swooped in and scooped her offspring up, running away with her into the vegetation. Kakobe recently lost her younger infant Mashemererwa last December, and was understandably agitated about her other offspring becoming ensnared. 

A second attempt to intervene was made the following day but was not successful due to the difficult terrain and stress level of the group. Buchura’s mother had became very suspicious and was moving quickly away from intervention team with her offspring. Three other subsequent attempts, with two days break in between to allow the group to settle, did not yield a successful intervention. 

On Friday, February 7th, after six treks to Oruzogo group, the field team was finally able to dart Buchura and remove the snare. Here is Dr. Fred’s report:

“We reached the group at 9:00am in the Rwenkubiro area of the park, at an altitude of 2056 meters. Buchura was at first difficult to find due to the thick vegetation but we saw her after an hour of observation. Dr. Noel and I conducted the initial visual assessment and made our plan. We intended to dart Buchura with anesthesia and be vigilant to not allow the mother or the silverback, Bakwate, to take the juvenile away. Upon our arrival to the group, the mother quickly moved to Buchura’s side and the other group members followed. We pursued them briefly and then allowed them to settle and feed before any other attempt for about 30 minutes. Two teams were formed and I went with two UWA rangers as Dr. Noel moved with the rest of the field team. I approached within ten meters of the group as they continued to feed.

Buchura climbed up a tree and relaxed with her right side towards me. She started to bite on the snare on her left hand; The snare was tightly cutting into the skin. She seemed to be in quite a bit of pain and was not using the hand during feeding or moving. She spent about 5 minutes up in the tree while her mother was below on the ground with silverback Bakwate feeding nearby.

I darted Buchura on the right side of her back with Ketamine and Dexmeditomidine to anesthetize her and begin the intervention at 1:00pm. She moved down the tree after the dart made contact and fell asleep within 4 minutes near the silverback Bakwate. The field team managed to “push” the other individuals in the group away from Buchura and hold their ground until we could complete the intervention. 

Dr. Fred works to collect samples and clean Buchura’s wound during the intervention.

First, the rope snare was removed and the wound was thoroughly cleaned. The rope had cut into the flesh of her hand and the edges of the wound were becoming necrotic. We administered a long-acting antibiotic Enrofloxacin and an anti-inflammatory/pain medication, Ketoprofen. Dr. Noel and I collected blood and fecal samples, as well as oral, nasal, rectal, and vaginal swabs for future research and conducted a complete physical exam.

Free of the rope snare, the wound is thoroughly cleaned.

We administered the anesthesia reversal at 1:28pm and she was fully awake by 1:40pm, at which point she rejoined her group members. I will revisit the group next week and assess Buchura’s recovery and in the meantime, trackers will monitor her closely.”

Bucura wakes from the anesthesia and moves away into the forest with his group members.

This case is a testament to the tenacity and dedication of our hard-working veterinarians. We are so proud of our team and pleased that Buchura will retain full use of the hand and begin the process of healing!

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

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