Yesterday, January 27, 2019, Gorilla Doctors performed the year’s first emergency snare removal from a mountain gorilla in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda.

Shida, a 20-year old female still nursing her 3-year old infant, was found by trackers caught in a wire snare. At the time of their discovery, Shida was still attached to the tree upon which the snare was set; she was crying and struggling to free herself. Trackers cut the snare from the tree to calm her, and called Gorilla Doctors’ Dr. Fred.

When Dr. Fred arrived on the scene, he saw that the snare was wrapped tightly around Shida’s right arm, just below her elbow. Her lower arm, hand and fingers were already swollen, and the snare was clearly causing pain, as she was holding the arm up and not putting weight on it or using it to walk. He quickly prepared a dart with anesthetics, and despite the fact that Shida’s family, the Mishaya group, was agitated, with his usual excellent aim Dr. Fred was able to chemically immobilize Shida quickly. He removed the snare, cleaned the wounds that the wire had caused, and administered antibiotics and pain relievers. As a last step, he gave Shida an injection of drugs that reversed the effects of the anesthesia, and was back with her family within minutes.

Veterinarian administering antibiotics to wild gorilla's injured arm

Dr. Fred administering cleaning the affected area on Shida’s arm

It was the frequency with which her study subjects were getting caught in snares that prompted primatologist Dian Fossey, in 1984, to first suggest that veterinarians could help conserve mountain gorillas. Gorilla Doctors has been providing life-saving veterinary care to ill and injured gorillas ever since. Despite the parks’ dedicated efforts to find and remove poachers’ snares before they entrap wildlife, Gorilla Doctors responds to snare emergencies multiple times a year. In October 2018, Gorilla Doctors removed snares from gorillas in all three countries – Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Research soon to be published by Gorilla Doctors will reveal that young gorillas are caught most frequently, and that rapid response is the key to their full recovery.

Closeup of female gorilla in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Shinda, the 3-year female gorilla

A huge thanks to Dr. Fred for his excellent care of Shida, and to the Bwindi trackers and rangers who helped Gorilla Doctors help Shida.

Rangers and tracking team in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Part of the tracking team