After a poacher’s snare nearly took her life, the Gorilla Doctors team is pleased to see young mountain gorilla Yalala making such a remarkable recovery. Our Head DRC Field Vet Dr. Eddy Kambale attributes her recovery to her strong, feisty personality. “She has been through a serious ordeal and endured a lot of stress from being ensnared, separated from her family, rescued by strange humans, and has received extensive medical treatment” said Dr. Eddy. “But her stress level has decreased considerably and she is getting much more confident, both with her caregivers and her environment… Yalala is very clear about what she does and doesn’t like; she is a tough one.”

Yalala at the Senkwekwe Center with her stuffed baby gorilla given to her for comfort.


According to Gorilla Doctors Co-Director Dr. Mike Cranfield, Yalala was “at death’s door” following her rescue on June 12th. The juvenile gorilla, who was born in Kabirizi group in Virunga National Park on July 20th, 2014, became caught in a snare in early June. After her group members tried unsuccessfully to free her from the snare, they moved on without the youngster; she survived an estimated six days in the snare before trackers found her. Drs. Eddy and Martin joined Park rangers to intervene and free the juvenile from the snare. When they arrived they found a terrified, weak and emaciated little gorilla. The snare had cut off blood supply to her left foot and the foot was infested with maggots. Unless the foot was amputated, Drs. Eddy and Martin were concerned that the infection would spread to the rest of her body. They decided to immediately place Yalala under anesthesia and perform the procedure on the forest floor. From looking at her noseprint (a unique characteristic used to identify gorillas), they realized that Yalala was from the habituated Kabirizi group, not an unhabituated group as previously suspected. The plan was to return with her to the Gikeri patrol post and set out first thing in the morning to reunite her with her group members.

Clockwise from top left: An ensnared Yalala with food brought to her by the rescue team, sitting in Dr. Eddy’s lap after returning to the patrol post, the damage done by the snare to her left foot.


Unfortunately, the following morning Yalala was still extremely weak. She couldn’t sit up or eat and her condition was deteriorating rapidly. Drs. Eddy and Martin, in consultation with Chief Park Warden Emmanuel de Merode, made the decision to bring Yalala back to the Senkwekwe Center to receive further medical treatment. Eventually, she would be introduced to the small group of orphan mountain gorillas that live there.

With Drs. Eddy and Martin’s consistent, thorough medical care, Yalala has made a remarkable recovery over the last two months. “Today she is a totally different gorilla” said Dr. Eddy. “A week ago she started walking around more easily and she has had a very good appetite, feeding abundantly on wild celery and other forest food. Her medical prognosis is very promising and currently she is off medicine (with the exception of multivitamins) which means she is no longer considered an emergency case. Currently, her life is no longer threatened and her caregivers and veterinarians have finally started to relax a bit!”

A healthy and recovered Yalala lounging with her caregiver at the Senkwekwe Center.


Yalala is starting to show interest in the other mountain gorilla orphans (Ndeze, Ndakasi and Matabishi) in the neighboring enclosure at the Senkwekwe Center and will soon be introduced into the group. The Gorilla Doctors team is confident that being reunited with other gorillas will further lift her spirits and help her to feel more comfortable in her new environment.

Not all cases as serious as Yalala’s end happily, and Dr. Eddy is grateful for this positive outcome: “I become emotionally attached very often to the gorillas I treat. These amazing creatures have become part of my life, almost as family members. When any of them is sick, it’s hard to not feel sad and anxious. It makes me very happy to see Yalala recovering so well from such a serious ordeal.”