2-day old infant of Nsanganira, in Ntambara Group, sleeps peacefully

Our Gorilla Doctors team in Volcanoes National Park has been closely monitoring a respiratory outbreak in Sabyinyo group this month. Trackers first reported that some of the adults in this 18-member family were coughing. Over several visits, Drs. Noel, Gaspard and Adrien checked on all of the sick gorillas in order to monitor them for evidence of severe respiratory disease, like pneumonia.

Icyerekezo, a silverback in Sabyinyo group in Volcanoes National Park, was exhibiting a cough, runny nose, and lethargy when Dr. Noel checked on the group on Nov. 1

Respiratory illness outbreaks occur with some regularity in human-habituated mountain gorillas. Gorilla Doctors published a scientific paper summarizing outbreaks over a 20-year period, and more recently, Dr. Noel evaluated risk factors for the respiratory disease outbreaks that occurred in mountain gorillas in Rwanda in 2016.  Gorilla Doctors was the first to prove that sometimes respiratory illness in mountain gorillas is caused by human viruses. For this reason, we are ever-vigilant for respiratory tract infections in the mountain gorillas, and feel obligated to treat gorillas if their illness gets severe.

Fortunately, none of the Sabyinyo Group gorillas became so sick that antibiotic treatment was necessary, and the outbreak is resolving.



Silverback Gihishamwotsi showing signs of a runny nose when Dr. Gaspard conducted a health monitoring visit on Nov. 10

Dr. Adrien checked the group again on Nov. 11: adult female Gukunda had a runny nose too.

Later this month, Dr. Gaspard checked on Ntambara group, which was reported to be suffering from respiratory illness as well. When he observed the group, the silverback Twibuke coughed several times, and Dr. Gaspard could hear one or two other gorillas coughing. Adult female Nsanganira was healthy, which was of great relief to Dr. Gaspard because she was nursing her 2-day old infant. Just as with humans, newborns are particularly vulnerable to infection with upper respiratory viruses that can quickly cause severe pneumonia. Fortunately, the infant appeared healthy.

Nsanganira, in Ntambara group, holds her infant; fortunately both mom and baby were not showing signs of respiratory illness