These reports are based on interventions that took place earlier this year. The first intervention story was written by Dr. Jean-Felix. The second was written by Communications Officer Molly Feltner.

Intervention #1

The golden monkey inside a dog crate after being rescued.

Golden monkeys are an endangered species in Volcanoes National Park like the mountain gorillas. The golden monkey (Cercopithecus mitis khanti) is a subspecies of blue monkey found only in the bamboo forests of the Virunga Volcanoes Massif in Central Africa. Two groups of golden monkeys are habituated for tourism in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and one group is habituated in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. While golden monkeys live in groups, many lone males are observed and sometimes they leave the park to look for food.

Curious children at Rushubi school.On the January 27, Elisabeth Nyirakaragire, Volcanoes National Park’s Veterinary Warden, alerted MGVP about the presence of an adult male golden monkey at the Rushubi Primary School near Kinigi, Rwanda.  Dr. Jan and Elisabeth decided to attempt an intervention and bring the golden monkey back to the forest.  

The monkey hiding in the house.

When they arrived, they tried to herd the golden monkey back to the forest but the excited school children chased him in the wrong direction. The golden monkey was stressed and went to hide in an unfinished house.

Dr. Jean-Felix gets ready to dart the monkey in the house.Dr. Jan called me, asking me to come to the scene and bring the immobilization equipment. After asking to the local people around the house to move away with the help of the community workers, I was able to dart the monkey, who was hiding in the rafters. The anesthesia was successfully injected in his left thigh. He removed the dart and gave me a hard look. Within 10 minutes, the golden monkey was mostly anesthetized. Dr. Jan and myself held a tarp underneath him to catch him.

Elizabeth and Dr. Jan collecting samples.Community workers and Elisabeth brought our intervention bags and a dog crate into the house so we could collect samples. The golden monkey was stable throughout the procedure. Blood samples were collected from the right and left femoral vein and we also took nasal, mouth, anal and throat bacterial swabs.

Dr. Jean-Felix carries the monkey to the dog crate.The golden monkey had a small superficial scar on his left eyelid. He was missing his two upper canines and his left lower canine was broken. He had a cut on his left ear probably due to a fight. He was in good weight and body condition and his stomach was half full. After 30 minutes he began to wake up and we put him in the crate.

The group watches the monkey as he runs deep into the forest.Dr. Jan went to the MGVP laboratory to process the samples and Elisabeth, the community workers, and I walked to the forest with the monkey to reintroduce him to the park. After a 30-minute hike we entered the park and walked the monkey 300 meters inside. We opened the door to the crate and the monkey disappeared into the bamboo. It was a successful intervention for the monkey and for us.

Intervention #2 

Golden monkey in the wild.On the morning of January 30, the Gorilla Doctors received a call from Elisabeth Nyirakaragire, Volcanoes National Park’s Veterinary Warden, who reported that a golden monkey was trapped in the kitchen of a local person’s house in a small village in Mutura, some 5km from the park.

Golden monkeys, an endangered primate species known for their golden-colored fur, live in family groups in the park, spending much of their time in the bamboo zones where food is plentiful. However, sometimes adult and sub-adult males strike out on their own. Of late, we’ve had a number of reports of lone males coming well outside the park to raid crops. The monkeys’ bad behaviour irks hard-working farmers and puts the monkey at risk of injury or death.  

Elizabeth, Dr. Jan, and Damascene arrive on the scene.Gorilla Doctors are always ready to help with wildlife issues in the region, so Elisabeth and Dr. Jan prepared for an intervention and drove up the bumpy road the village where the frightened monkey was holed up in a dark kitchen outbuilding.  Volcanoes National Park Acting Law Enforcement Warden Damascene Hakizimana was also on hand to help with the intervention, and with community relations. Once we reached the village, we had a 30-minute hike up narrow paths to monkey’s location. Outside the house, we were surrounded by a huge crowd of villagers who were hoping to catch a glimpse of the monkey.

Preparing the dart.We met the homeowner, an older gentleman who had contacted authorities when the monkey became trapped in his home.  He showed us the monkey who was hiding in the rafters of his kitchen building. The monkey was alert, responsive and moving well, but clearly alarmed with the situation.  It was due to the good community conservation education work done by Damascene and his team that saved this monkey’s life, and caused this man to contact authorities.

Entering the kitchen to dart the monkey.

Dr. Jan prepared an anaesthetic dart and entered the building with Elisabeth. It was very dark in the cookhouse, and the monkey was alarmed and moving away from Dr. Jan and Elisabeth, but he finally sat long enough for Dr. Jan to dart him in the right thigh and he fell into a pile of baskets unharmed.

Dr. Jan listens to the monkey’s heart.

Elizabeth and Dr. Jan carried the monkey into the light to perform an examination and collect samples.

Drs. Kim and Jan and Elizabeth take blood samples from the monkey.

Dr. Kim Hammond, a veterinarian and MGVP board member, arrived later on the scene to help with sample collection. The Gorilla Doctors take blood, nasal swabs, and other samples from animals under sedation so they can learn as much about the animal’s health as possible.

Trimming bands in the monkey’s tail.The monkey appeared perfectly normal and healthy with no signs of injury. Dr. Jan trimmed two bands in the fur on the monkey’s tail so that if he came out the park again in the near future, he could be quickly indentified.

Leaving the village with a crowd of onlookers.

After the exam and sample collection, the monkey was placed in a dog crate and our group headed back down to the trucks, accompanied by what seemed like the entire village. We drove the monkey over rough roads close to the edge of Volcanoes National Park. By the time we arrived, the monkey was alert, peering out the windows of the crate, wondering what had happened!  .

Now this is a bad hangover.

Dr. Jan, Elizabeth, Damascene, and a porter walked with the monkey some 500 meters in to the park. Realizing he was back home as soon as he saw the bamboo forest, the monkey grew restless and tried to open the crate.

Mission accomplished!

When we found a spot we thought was far enough inside the forest, the crate door was opened and he bolted into the forest without looking back. Since then, the monkey has not been spotted outside the park – mission accomplished! We hope he learned his lesson, and has found a group to join.

Here’s a video of the intervention:

Please consider supporting the Gorilla Doctors by making a secure online donation. Every dollar you give goes to directly supporting our gorilla health programs and One Health initiative. Thank you for your generosity.

For the most up-to-date information about the Gorilla Doctors, “like” our Facebook page. You’ll find gorilla health reports, news items, photos, videos, and links to related content.