On Tuesday, January 29, Drs. Eddy and Jacques intervened to remove a wire snare that was wrapped tightly around a 3.5-year-old female’s fingers in Kahuzi Biega National Park’s Chimanuka group. The ensnared gorilla was a young female named Iragi, whose name means “lucky” in the local language from the Bashi tribe. This is only the third successful snare intervention for a Grauer’s gorilla in the history of Gorilla Doctors. The first two Grauer’s gorilla snare interventions, both in September 2012, were also to release ensnared individuals in Chimanuka group. 

Trackers reported that the wire snare was caught around the youngster’s fingers and still attached to the tree when they found the group. The trackers attempted to cut the snare from the tree that afternoon, but the other group members had gathered around the infant and dominant silverback Chimanuka was aggressive and charging. Upon returning to the group at 4:45pm, the trackers found that part of the wire was still attached to the limb, but the gorillas had moved on from the site. 

Drs. Eddy and Jacques traveled by night boat across Lake Kivu from Goma to Bukavu and on to Kahuzi Biega National Park the following morning. An advance team was planned to trek out early to locate the group. The Gorilla Doctors team met with the park’s veterinarian, Dr. Kizito and Dr. Luiz (from the Lwiro Sanctuary) and hiked into the park, prepared to intervene and remove the snare. 

The intervention team: Kahuzi Biega NP trackers and Gorilla Doctors vets Drs. Eddy and Jacques.

Chimanuka group had traveled quite far from the previous day and it took several hours for the trackers to locate the gorillas. At 11:45am, the team arrived to the group to find the young female resting next to the dominant silverback. It was clear that the wire snare was still wrapped very tight around four fingers on her right hand.

Drs. Eddy and Jacques prepared the anesthesia dart and successfully darted her at 12:12pm. Iragi immediately ran to hide in the vegetation, but began moving with silverback Chimanuka soon after. At 12:25, Iragi was fully sedated and luckily, Chimanuka had moved off. 

Dr. Eddy conducts a full physical exam of Iragi while she was under anesthesia.

While under anesthesia, the docs performed a full physical examination, took blood samples for testing and removed the wire snare. The wire had bound the four fingers tightly together and was clearly compromising hand function and restricting blood flow. The fingers had begun to swell and were difficult to extend. 

Cutting the wire snare from around Iragi’s fingers.

Dr. Eddy examines the fingers after the wire snare is removed.

Iragi’s fingers were swollen and difficult to extend.Iragi was under anesthesia for 27 minutes while the docs completed the exam, collected samples and removed the snare. When she woke, she immediately rejoined her group and exhibited a good disposition after recovery. 

This young female was indeed lucky that the docs were able to intervene to remove the snare quickly. If the snare had not been removed promptly, Iragi could have not only lost her fingers, but if infection had set in, she could have lost her life.


For more info about the Grauer’s gorillas of eastern DRC, here is an excerpt from a previous Gorilla Doctors blog:

“Unlike mountain gorilla habitat, the regions where Grauer’s gorillas live in Eastern DRC—portions of Kahuzi-Biega, Virunga, and Mikeo National Parks as well as several forest reserves—have been extremely difficult to access over the past several decades. Due to civil war, rebel conflict, and intensive illegal resource extraction, park authorities and conservation groups like Gorilla Doctors have not been able to closely monitor Grauer’s gorillas. Comprehensive population censuses have been impossible to carry out, but experts estimate there may be fewer than 4,000 Grauer’s gorillas.

In this 600-square-kilometer highland sector of Kahuzi-Biega National Park, a 2010 census counted 181 Grauer’s gorillas. Thirty-five of these gorillas, including the 34-member Chimanuka family and lone silverback Mugaruka, are fully habituated to the presence of people to support gorilla ecotourism, which provides much needed revenue for maintaining and patrolling the park.” 

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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