While our primary patients are mountain and Grauer’s gorillas, the Gorilla Doctors also treats other injured and ailing wildlife in the region. This week, Gorilla Doctors received a report that a male Serval (Leptailurus serval) had been caught in a wire snare outside of Volcanoes National Park on January 14. 

Male Serval (Leptailurus serval) caught in a snare in Musanze.

Gorilla Doctors was initially requested to help euthanize the serval, as he appeared to be severely injured and dangerous. After some discussion, the decision was made to assess the situation to see if removing the snare was a possibility. The serval was ensnared near the mouth of a cave in Musanze and a crowd of curious onlookers was reportedly gathering at the cave.

The Musanze area has many caves where various wild animals are observed and where the Gorilla Doctors PREDICT team habitually look for bat samples for virus analysis. Some caves are also visited by tourists, through a new tourism initiative launched by the Rwanda Development Board. 

The serval was trying to free himself and get away from the curious onlookers.

The Docs arrived to the cave at 9:15am. There were many local people gathered around, speaking loudly and trying to observe the ensnared cat. The serval was very agitated and behaving aggressively. I injected the anesthetic drug into his right thigh at 10:20am using a pole syringe. He didn’t show any effect and we decided to supplement with an additional dose of Ketamine at 10:40am and he showed the first effect after 3 minutes and was completely down by 10:50am. 

The serval was snared on his posterior left foot and had a deep wound that exposed his metatarsal bones on his anterior left foot. We initiated a physical examination, removed the wire snare on his foot, cleaned the wound on his anterior left foot and removed the necrotic tissue. We also collected nasal and throat swabs and blood from his right saphenous vena.

The serval was snared on his posterior left foot.

At 11:40am, we administered Atipamizole to end the procedure. We loaded the serval into a crate and transported him to the Buhanga Eco-park, just outside of Volcanoes National Park. Once in the protected park, we observed the serval for two hours. Although he moved his head, he did not make any move to run away. 

Later in the day, Dr. Noel went to check on the serval and found him in the same place. After consulting with Dr. Dawn, Chief Park Warden Prosper Uwingeli and VNP Veterinary Warden Elisabeth Nyirakaragire the decision was made to bring the serval back to the Gorilla Doctors office for observation, to receive fluids and possible further treatment.

Drs. Noel and JFK move the serval into a crate for transport.

The serval appeared to be doing well after the treatment and was brought back to the Buhanga Ecopark the following morning to complete his recovery. The Ecopark staff continued to monitor the serval, but on the morning of January 16, they found that he had passed away during the night. The trauma from the snare incident was too much for the serval to survive. Sadly, not all snare interventions performed by Gorilla Doctors are a success, but there remains many gorillas and other wildlife that are saved each and every year from snares.

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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