By Jessica Burbridge

Gorilla Doctors Head Field Veterinarian in DRC, Dr. Eddy Kambale, recently conducted an IMPACT workshop for 14 ICCN Kahuzi Biega National Park rangers and trackers at the Tshivanga station. The IMPACT system (Internet Management Program to Support Conservation Technology) is an integral part of the Gorilla Doctors health monitoring.

Dr. Eddy (far right) gives a Powerpoint presentation to the PNKB rangers and trackers.

During each visit to a gorilla group, careful notes are taken for each animal. In addition to the veterinarians’ monthly checks, Gorilla Doctors relies heavily on the observations of the trackers working for the national parks and organizations like the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International’s Karisoke Research Center. The trackers see the gorillas every day and are trained by Gorilla Doctors to look for any behavioral changes and other signs that could indicate illness and injury. Concerns are reported back to our veterinary team which follows up to perform more in-depth visual health checks. 

To keep track of the health histories of the different gorillas, the veterinary team records their health check data in the IMPACT system. By keeping a highly organized record that includes information on location and gorilla group membership over time, a unique data resource is being created (with over 6,000 observations as of March 2013) that will provide Gorilla Doctors and other researchers with a much more in-depth understanding of the health trends in the population as well as a clearer picture of the overall health of individual gorillas.

IMPACT workshop at Kahuzi Biega National Park.

During the workshop, Dr. Eddy discussed identification of eastern lowland or Grauer’s gorillas by noseprints and other significant characteristics. A review of the IMPACT software was demonstrated and the gorilla visitation health protocols and policies was revisited. Dr. Eddy also discussed the decision making process required for a veterinary interventions and intervention procedures. In addition, Dr. Eddy reviewed the importance of habituation (enhancing gorilla protection through close monitoring, education and scientific research, tourism and economic benefit) versus the disadvantages of habituation (change in habitat by human activity, over habituation and change in gorilla behavior, stress, exposure to disease).

Gorilla Doctors is currently working on a new “noseprint book” for the habituated Grauer’s gorillas in Kahuzi Biega National Park. With access to this book, rangers and trackers can become more familiar with the habituated gorillas and be able to identify them with greater ease. This is especially important for the habituation of additional groups in Kahuzi Biega National Park. Having a resource to refer to for identification purposes should be very helpful for the trackers and allow Gorilla Doctors to provide the best veterinary care possible.

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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