On Tuesday, January 15, the trackers of Agashya group reported that 5-year-old male Gutungura had been caught in a wire snare in the Kibumbu area of Volcanoes National Park. The other members of the group managed to free him from the ensnaring site, ripping the trap out of the ground, but the wire noose remained around his left wrist. Trackers also reported that his mother, Turiho, was trying desperately to free him, pulling and biting at the wire. 

An intervention team was assembled, comprised of Gorilla Doctors veterinarians (Drs. Dawn, Noel, and Jean-Felix), Volcanoes National Park Veterinary Warden Elisabeth Nyirakaragire and Rwanda Development Board trackers to trek to the group the following day and assess the situation, prepared to intervene. 

5-year-old male Guntungera of Agashya group.

From Dr. Noel:

We found Agashya group in the Kibumbu area of the park, at an altitude of 2668 meters.  The group was feeding in very thick vegetation, on the steep slope of a crater. Gutungura was feeding and moving with the group, but the wire snare remained tight around his left wrist. His left hand was swollen and the young male was not using it for feeding or traveling. After our assessment, we decided to perform a full veterinary intervention to remove the snare.

Wire snare around Guntungera’s left wrist.

With the group ranging on the steep wall of the crater, and dominant silverback Agashya placing himself between our team and Gutungura, it was very difficult to get a shot to anesthesize him. It took 4.5 hours of following the group and waiting for the right moment until we could get a shot.

A dart of 100 mg of Ketamine and .5mg of Dexmedetomidine was loaded and Gutungura was darted in the muscle of his upper right thigh at 1:01pm. The dart was fully discharged and full induction was noted after 7 minutes. 

After removing the dart, Gutungura moved close to his mother, who kept grooming him, even after full induction. The trackers “pushed” her away and formed a circle around Gutungura, to allow us to work safely. Fortunately, dominant silverback Agashya and the other members of the group did not appear to be aware of the darting and were feeding approximately 20 meters from the tracker’s circle. 

Drs. Dawn, Noel, Jean-Felix and Elisabeth perform the intervention.

Once Gutungura was sedated, we removed the wire snare. There was a deep cut, thought to be a bite wound, about 5cm long and 3cm wide on the lateropalmar aspect of the hand, but only mild damage along the wrist where the snare had been tightly attached. The wound was thoroughly cleaned with diluted iodine, the necrotic tissue was debrided and a topical antibiotic was applied. Swelling of the left hand was apparent due to inflammation and vascular/lymphatic blockage.

Docs clean the wound on Gutungura’s wrist, thought to be a bite wound from where the gorillas tried to free him.

The ketamine dose was supplemented with an additional 50mg dose at 1:27pm. Gutungura was also given 1000mg of Ceftriaxone, 300mg Enrofloxacin, and 60mg of Ketoprofen.

Dr. Dawn Zimmerman checks Gutungura’s heart rate.

We reversed the Dexmedetomidine with 5mg of Atipamezole at 1:53pm, when he was attempting to get up and the intervention was complete. The other gorillas came to the intervention site just after the procedure. We waited here for an additional 20 minutes to make sure that Gutungura was fully recovered from the anesthesia. Afterwards, there was aggression within the group because Gutungura’s mother, Turiho, was trying to protect him from the other group members, who were curious to touch him.

The Agashya group trackers will continue to monitor Gutungura closely and report his condition to Gorilla Doctors after every visit to ensure his full recovery. Gutungura was reportedly using his left hand once again the day after the intervention. 

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.