Dr. Jan (Photo by LuAnne Cadd)I can’t believe I’m leaving Africa.  After almost two-and-a-half years I am headed back home to Indiana at the end of this month.  This has been one of the most amazing and fulfilling experiences of my life – working as a Gorilla Doctor with such a dedicated team in Rwanda, Congo and Uganda.  Honestly, a lifelong dream-come-true.  We have a GREAT team – I will miss them terribly.  We have wonderful partners in conservation.  And oh the gorillas.

Dr. Jan with Shamavu.I remember my first trek to the gorillas with Dr. Jean Felix.  Group 13 (now Agashya group) – one of the closest groups.  My heart was pounding in my ears and my breath was ragged when we found the group maybe 30 minutes from the wall (turns out that was an easy trek and I am in MUCH better shape now!).  But when I saw my first wild mountain gorilla, Agashya, the silverback leader in that group, I was overwhelmed with emotion, and all pain and exhaustion was forgotten.  I am still overwhelmed with emotion when I see the gorillas. Every time.  It is such an honor to be in their presence.

Dr. Jan performing an intervention.As I look back over the my time here I am simply amazed at all we have accomplished – snare removals, respiratory disease treatments, moving Mukunda back to the forest. Twice!  We moved 12 orphan gorillas to permanent homes in DRC, provided first response to 6 new gorilla orphans.   I could go on and on.  I leave a piece of my heart here – with my MGVP family, including our house dogs crazy Chewy, sweet Danny and shy Fox.  With the gorillas.  With my dear, dear friends.

-Dr. Jan