By Dr. Joost Philippa

The Gorilla Doctors team doesn’t just take care of gorillas; we occasionally work with the national parks to intervene on behalf of other wildlife that exit the parks or are injured due to a human-caused issue.

Recently, Volcanoes National Park requested the veterinary assistance of Gorilla Doctors for just such a case. A golden jackal (Canis aureus) was caught in a snare in the Sacola area just outside the Park. This was the sixth time Gorilla Doctors intervened for a snared jackal in the last three years.

Following the call, the intervention team (comprised of Rwanda Development Board veterinary warden Ms. Elisabeth, and three Gorilla Doctors: Drs. Gaspard, Methode, and Joost) immediately packed the field equipment bags and headed off to the area, which was a 45-minute drive from our headquarters in Musanze.

When the team arrived, the jackal was just 100 meters from the park edge, and appeared weak and stressed, with his left-front leg in a wire snare. We stood back from the jackal a bit  to minimize the stress of our presence, while we discussed  strategy and prepared the necessary immobilizing drugs.

Photo by Joost Philippa

Dr. Gaspard administered the anesthetic drugs using a pole syringe, after which we retreated and waited. Once the jackal was asleep, we quickly moved in and removed the snare using a wire cutter. The snare was very tight around the young male’s front leg. Once the snare was removed, we noticed a small, superficial wound where the snare had been.

We then moved the jackal to the edge of the park, right next to the boundary, to perform a full health check, clean the wound, and administer some long-acting antibiotics and painkillers. We also collected samples to evaluate its overall health status, and for banking for future use. The health check did not reveal any major illness, apart from mild dehydration. Despite initial fears that the leg may be broken, we did not palpate a fracture.

Photo by Joost Philippa

After about 45 minutes we moved the jackal to just inside the park boundary and administered drugs to reverse the effects of the anesthetics. The jackal slowly wakened, and 6 minutes later he stood up and slowly walked into the forest.

Photo by Joost Philippa


Back in Musanze, the results from his blood tests correlated with the dehydration, stress, and muscle damage – all of which were expected findings. Otherwise, he appears to be a healthy young jackal, and so we were all thrilled that we were able to release him from the snare and send him back into the wild.