We’d like to introduce our newest veterinarian, Dr. Methode Bahizi, who will take on the Regional Laboratory Veterinarian position that was vacated by Dr. Noel after he was promoted to Rwanda Field Veterinarian. Methode has been involved with Gorilla Doctors since 2009, first as a student conducting cattle health research with our former Agriculture Consultant John Huston and then as an intern at our Rwanda headquarters. Earlier this year, Methode traveled to U.S. for several months to intern at the Houston Zoo, where he was hosted by Gorilla Doctors Advisory Board member Peter Riger, and at the Indianapolis Zoo, where he was hosted by Dr. Jan Ramer, our former Regional Veterinary Manager. We’re thrilled that Methode, who has worked so hard to gain experience and who we all know well by now, can officially be called a Gorilla Doctor. 

Below, Methode tells the story of how he became interested in animal medicine and how he set his sights on joining Gorilla Doctors after hearing about the organization in school lectures.

I was born in a little village called Murehe in Karongi District, Western Province, Rwanda. As a child I grew up doing things that other village kids did – hauling water, playing soccer barefoot, and taking goats and cows out to graze. I was blessed because I had parents who pushed me to go to school.  I went to primary school in my village and from there to the local secondary school and then on to Umutara Polytechnic University. This was not easy but I made it. Many of my childhood friends were not able to go to school and today when I meet them I ask myself,  “Why did God choose me and give me this favor?”

I first became interested in working with animals as a child. My parents had some cows and I loved them. Many times when I left school in the afternoon, instead of going straight home to study, I would hang around with the cattle herders and watch the cows graze. My mother would get very angry with me for not focusing on my lessons, but I enjoyed being with the animals. 

One day one of our cows fell and broke one of her horns. My father called the local veterinarian and I remember how this man was received as a king. He was respected greatly for what he did to save the animals; he was so important in our community. That is when I decided I wanted to be a veterinarian too.

In 2007 I began University to study animal health and then veterinary medicine. In discussions about wildlife health and conservation, my fellow students and teachers spoke often about Gorilla Doctors, which was based nearby, and how it helped Rwanda’s gorillas. I was fascinated by this organization and hoped to one day meet someone who worked there. 

My second year, I was able to take an animal husbandry course taught by John Huston, an American who also worked at Gorilla Doctors overseeing domestic animal health projects around Volcanoes National Park. One day, he asked for students to help him with a cattle research project, and I jumped at the chance. I learned a lot about how to properly care for animals from John and he also introduced to me to the rest of Gorilla Doctors staff. I met Drs. Jan, Mike, Jean-Felix, and Molly Feltner, and Noel, a student at the time who would eventually be hired by Gorilla Doctors. 

The staff was very friendly, and I was invited to participate in staff trainings and then intern at Gorilla Doctors headquarters in Musanze. I gained so much valuable experience as a volunteer and intern:  I participated in veterinary rounds, laboratory research, post-mortem exams of gorillas and other animals, and even bat trapping. In 2011, my culminating university research project on tick-borne diseases affecting domestic cattle surrounding Volcanoes National Park was funded by Gorilla Doctors. 

After graduating from Umutara with a degree in Veterinary Medicine in February of this year, friends in the U.S. helped me to travel to the USA to intern at the Houston and Indianapolis Zoos. 

It is hard for me to describe the experience because I was overwhelmed by all of the different people I met and the things that I learned I learned how to monitor and care for wild animals at the Houston Zoo, spayed and neutered cats and dogs at the Houston SPCA, and even worked with dolphin trainers at the Indianapolis Zoo. . I can’t possibly thank everyone who welcomed me and taught me new things.

I found out about the job opening for Laboratory Technician at Gorilla Doctors while in the U.S. and was eager to return to Rwanda for an interview. I interviewed with Dr. Dawn and other staff members and partners. Soon after I received word that I was being offered the job.

Imagine how I feel now after all of those years wishing that I could work for Gorilla Doctors! I am very committed and excited to learn from the senior staff. Dr. Noel is teaching me many things in the laboratory and although I am a little overwhelmed, I am determined to succeed.