Blog by: Dr. Magdalena Lukasik-Braum
MGVP Regional Field Veterinarian

Last week Dr. Eddy and I spent the whole week in Kenya attending the annual meeting of PASA. PASA is the Pan-African Sanctuary Alliance, which for almost 10 years has worked to help primate sanctuaries in Africa to improve their expertise and facilities. We Gorilla Doctors became involved with this organization when we rescued the first gorilla orphans in 2002.  

This year’s workshop took place between 16-20 November in two locations: Heron Hotel in Nairobi and Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Nanyuki. Dr. Eddy (together with Dr. Jacques) took part in previous two PASA meetings, but for me it was the first time, and I very much enjoyed meeting the people from all the sanctuaries, veterinarians and researchers alike!

There were many presentations at the meeting, and Dr. Eddy and I learned about how other facilities are dealing with the husbandry and medical needs of the primates in their care.  I was scheduled to have only one presentation, but in the end there was enough time to present twice.  The first presentation was on the gorilla positive training for the medication in Kinigi quarantine facility (remember the Shooting Raisins blog?!) and second on the new medical cases Gorilla Doctors have treated in all the orphans under our care in Rwanda and DRC.   Both presentations were received very well and met with many questions and positive comments afterward!

This is me giving our case presentations

This year Gorilla Doctors also financed the trip to the conference for the ICCN veterinarian Dr. Arthur Kalonji, as the part of our capacity building program for the countries hosting Mountain and Grauer’s gorillas 

During the meeting we built relationships with some of the participating researchers and institutions, and we hope to continue to maintain these important relationships in the future.  We all face many of the same challenges, and we can be good resources for each other!

During our trip to Sweetwaters we viewed their facilities, which were very nice.  We also had a chance to see the chimpanzee Gashuhe, who was rescued by Gorilla Doctors from terrible conditions in 2008. Gashuhe had spent most of his life alone in tiny cage, but remained very sweet tempered toward humans.  Unfortunately, his social skills with other chimps are not good due to his unfortunate history.

Here is the cage into which Gashuhe had been welded for years in one of the factories in Kigali

Gashuhe before his rescue

Fortunately Gashuhe has been accepted into the chimpanzee group in Sweetwaters, and while he is still quite frequently bullied by other males he has became friends with one juvenile female. Dr. Eddy and I were glad to see that his life conditions improved immensely, and are hopeful that he will learn better social skills over time.

Here is Gashuhe (on right) with his friend enjoying the evening meal in their sleeping quarters

Here is the rest of his new family playing outside

Dr. Eddy and I returned to headquarters with new information and new relationships, and will share what we’ve learned with the other Gorilla Doctors at our next all Doctor meeting.  Now it is back to health monitoring and orphan care for us!

Help the Gorilla Doctors.