On July 23, 2019, Gorilla Doctors’ Eddy and Martin performed a partial intervention on Bukima, the dominant silverback of Rugendo group in Virunga National Park, DR Congo, after he was severely injured in an interaction with lone silverback Sebagabo. This post summarizes their intervention report and the events leading to Bukima’s injuries.

Drs. Eddy and Martin prepare medication for dart gun.

Intervention: Medication administered via dart gun

Location: Virunga National Park, DR Congo

Gorilla Doctors: Drs. Eddy Kambale and Martin Kabuyaya

Dates: July 20 – 25th

July 20th – Gorilla Doctors receive a call from ICCN (Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature) park rangers that Bukima, the dominant silverback of Rugendo group, was severely injured during an interaction with lone silverback Sebagabo. Trackers reported that Sebagabo was very aggressive, attacking all three silverbacks in Rugendo group before running away. Bukima was the most severely wounded, with multiple injuries to his hands and he was seen dragging his left leg.

Silverback Bukima feeding with visible injuries after interaction with lone silverback Sebagabo.

July 21st – A park monitoring officer reported to Gorilla Doctors that Bukima’s left leg was swollen, he was limping, moving very little and not eating. Group members remained around him with fellow silverback Baseka staying close to Bukima.

July 22nd – Drs. Eddy and Martin are prevented from safely traveling from Goma to Rumangabo because of civil unrest along the road.

July 23rd – Drs. Eddy and Martin arrive safely to the ranger station and learn that the rangers had seen Bukima climbing up a tree. When Drs. Eddy and Martin reached the gorillas around 10:25AM they found the group resting. Bukima was with adult female Bagambe and her infant. Silverback Baseka remained close and would occasionally charge at Drs. Eddy and Martin. They also observed silverbacks Baseka and Kongomani; both had superficial wounds on their hands and feet that did not require treatment.

During their veterinary assessment of Bukima, Drs. Eddy and Martin observed multiple bite wounds on both hands, his left shoulder, toes of his right foot and a large wound on his left thigh – the cause of his limp. While it was affecting his movement, the wounds were clean and superficial (not deep). In order to prevent post-injury infection, Drs. Eddy and Martin administered a long-acting antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory/analgesic.

Dr. Marin Kabuyaya prepares to fire dart gun to administer medication.

Once Bukima was administered his medication via dart, he moved away quietly without reacting and the rest of the group remained calm.

July 24-25th – The ICCN monitoring officer reports to Gorilla Doctors a slight improvement in Bukima’s feeding and movement but that Bukima was still trailing behind the group.

August 12th UPDATE – Dr. Eddy reports that Bukima is fully back to normal.

Note on lone silverback Sebagabo – Given the severity of Bukima’s injuries, it is possible that lone silverback Sebagabo may also have sustained injuries so park rangers are working to locate him and check on his condition. Sebagabo is quite the survivor – as an infant in 2006 he lost his right hand to a snare. Gorilla Doctors performed a surgical intervention to repair his arm as he was suffering from an open stump with exposed bones. This successful intervention allowed Sebagabo to stay in the wild and grow into a silverback engaging in natural male-male fighting behavior. We will update this post when additional information on Sebagabo is available.

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