by Drs. Eddy and Martin

For the first time since May 2012, Gorilla Doctors veterinarians accompanied a team of ICCN trackers to visit Kipura group on Mt. Tshiabirimu in the North Sector of Virunga National Park, DR Congo. A Routine Health Check by Gorilla Doctors has not been possible in the last eight months due to the rebel activity in the North Sector.  Rebel groups moved in and made their camp inside the park in late May, occupying a patrol post and leading multiple attacks on ICCN rangers. 

Blackback Kambula

There are two gorilla groups remaining on Mt. Tshiabirimu. Kipura, the first group of Grauer’s gorillas is well habituated and was previously composed of six gorillas (one silverback, one adult female, two blackbacks, one sub adult female, and one juvenile). Two gorillas in Kipura group, adult female Katawiterina and juvenile Musomboli, have not been located since the unrest began in the region and there is growing concern as to what happened to the pair. The second group of Grauer’s gorillas was only comprised of two gorillas, one wild silverback and a habituated adult female, and both gorillas have been located. 

Blackbacks Kambula and Mukoykya resting during the observation period.

We entered the park from the Vurusi patrol post at 7:15 am and reached the Kalibina patrol post at 8:45. At the second patrol post, we met a team of ICCN trackers to escort us to the group. 

Trekking from the Kalibina patrol post, we found the group’s trail in the bamboo forest, going down hill. At 11:16am, we found the night nests in the Musavaki area at an altitude of 2581 meters. We checked the night nests and everything appeared to be normal. We hiked for another 30 minutes until we located the group of four gorillas, feeding quietly on Urera in an open area. We continued to observe the gorillas for 1 hour and 15 minutes. All four gorillas were visually in good health and thriving despite the dangerous circumstances of the previous months.

Dominant silverback Tsongo of Kipura Group.

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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