Last week we launched Meet the Gorilla Doctors: Guardians of Gorilla Health to introduce you in more detail than ever before to our extraordinary team of Ugandan, Congolese and Rwandan veterinarians who work tirelessly to protect the health of endangered mountain gorillas and critically endangered Grauer’s gorillas. Their veterinary conservation medicine has been credited for half of the annual population growth rate in habituated mountain gorillas1, the only great ape in the wild whose numbers are increasing.

This week we highlight our veterinary team in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Drs. Eddy and Fabrice. Dr. Fabrice, our newest Gorilla Doctor, joined Team DRC this past July. They work every day in difficult conditions to monitor and protect the health of mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park and Grauer’s gorillas in Kahuzi Biega National Park. In the video below, hear Dr. Fabrice talk about why he wanted to be a wildlife veterinarian, and Dr. Eddy shares one of the biggest lessons he has learned from the gorillas since becoming a Gorilla Doctor in 2004. You won’t want to miss it.

Dr. Eddy examines orphan mountain gorilla Ndakasi. Photo taken pre-COVID. Skyler Bishop for Gorilla Doctors

Meet the Doctors behind the Gorillas: DR Congo

Dr. Eddy Kambale Syaluha

“Growing up, baboons and sometimes even gorillas would come and steal from the banana trees on our farm. And now working with them in the wild, it has been very special. This work is really a gift and I find myself working with wildlife, with very rare people, and doing what I’m doing brings me much enthusiasm and dedication. It makes me happy to help save the life of these wild animals in my country which is one of the richest things we have, so I am proud of that.” – Dr. Eddy Kambale Syaluha

Dr. Eddy Kambale Syaluha, Head Veterinarian & PREDICT Country Coordinator. Photo by Skyler Bishop for Gorilla Doctors.

Dr. Eddy earned his veterinary degree from the Catholic University of Graben in DRC and completed a Master’s degree in Wildlife Resource Management in 2018 from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Before joining Gorilla Doctors in 2004, Dr. Eddy taught at the Technical Institute for Agriculture and Veterinary Science in Butembo, DRC.

Since 2011 he has served as our Head Veterinarian. He also serves as the PREDICT Country Coordinator for eastern DRC, leading efforts to detect and identify emerging infectious pathogens. During the more than two-year Ebolavirus outbreak in DRC, Dr. Eddy was instrumental in helping to educate park rangers and their families on health safety and how to reduce the risk of being infected by this devastating disease.

Dr. Eddy has also been leading a National Geographic-funded project to develop non-invasive health monitoring protocols for unhabituated Grauer’s gorillas. Grauer’s are critically endangered and declining in numbers with very few habituated to the presence of humans. When gorillas are unhabituated, Gorilla Doctors cannot get close enough to visually assess their health or provide treatment. By developing methods for monitoring the health of unhabituated Grauer’s gorillas (from a distance), we can begin to understand and address health threats at the local population level.

Dr. Eddy, with support from ICCN treats a wild Grauer’s gorilla blackback. © Gorilla Doctors

In addition to monitoring the health of wild gorillas, Dr. Eddy and now Dr. Fabrice also care for the health of the four orphaned mountain gorillas at Senkwekwe Center in Virunga National Park. Listen to Dr. Eddy talk more about this work in the video below. Additionally, as part of a regional Conservation Action Plan, in partnership with Congolese wildlife authorities and the Jane Goodall Institute, Drs. Eddy and Fabrice provide initial veterinary care for confiscated wildlife such as chimpanzees, monkeys and even parrots before these rescued animals are transferred to regional sanctuaries.

Dr. Fabrice Katembo Malonga

“My first thought when Dr. Eddy told me I was the newest Gorilla Doctors Field Veterinarian, is that I was very, very, very happy because my dream of contributing to animals and wildlife conservation had become a reality. I am proud to be a veterinarian. I am proud to be a Gorilla Doctor.” – Dr. Fabrice Katembo Malonga

Dr. Fabrice preps avocado and banana for a rescued infant chimp after conducting an intitial veterinary health assessment. © Gorilla Doctors

Dr. Fabrice joined the Gorilla Doctors team in July 2020 after a six-month internship at the Lwiro Primate Sanctuary where he gained hands-on clinical experience from Dr. Luis Flores, who leads a training program for young wildlife veterinarians. Fabrice’s time at Lwiro proved to be immediately valuable, as one of Dr. Fabrice’s first patients upon becoming a Gorilla Doctor was an infant chimpanzee confiscated by the Congolese wildlife authorities. The infant was brought to Gorilla Doctors for an initial health assessment and after Dr. Fabrice gave her a physical exam and a little snack, the infant was safely transported to the Lwiro sanctuary. Hear from Dr. Fabrice on why he wanted to become a veterinarian in the below video.

1Robbins, et al. (2011). PLoS One 6(6): e19788