The ailing Ntobo lies on the ground.

Drs. Jean-Felix Kinani and Jan Ramer report on the case of Ntobo, a female gorilla in Volcanoes National Park who died on September 9, 2011.

From Dr. Jean Felix on September 8: Yesterday, Karisoke Research Center (KRC) trackers requested a veterinary assessment for Ntobo, one of the females in the Bwenge group, who became sick suddenly. Today I went to check on her. Ntobo appeared lethargic and had a dry cough and a high respiratory rate with audible respiration. Ntaribi, Ntobo’s 4-year-old infant, staying close to her. The silverback Bwenge displayed when Ntobo was not moving with the rest of the group, and he pushed her gently, as if to encourage her to move. She slowly got up and joined the others. All of the other gorillas in the group were looking fine but they seemed to know that Ntobo was sick and they keep checking on her. After my visit I recommended that the Gorilla Doctors perform a full intervention first thing the next morning.

From Dr. Jean-Felix on September 9: In the morning we assembled our intervention team including myself and Dr. Jan, KRC trackers, Fundi Hategekiman and researcher Winnie Eckardt, also from Karisoke, and Volcanoes National Park Veterinary Warden Elisabeth Nyirakaragire. We reached Bwenge group at 8:43 am and found Ntobo close to her son Ntaribi. She was laying on her stomach, trying to eat a little bit, but she was very weak and kept closing her eyes. Her respiratory rate increased from yesterday and was 48 breaths per minute.

Drs. Jan and Jean-Felix prepare to dart Ntobo.Ntobo was darted anesthesia and sedated by 10:22 am. Silverback Bwenge charged for several minutes and dragged Ntobo a short distance. Her son Ntaribi cried but eventually rejoined the rest of his group around the perimeter.

We performed a physical examination of Ntobo and saw that she was cachectic (suffering from loss of muscle mass), and dehydrated and had pale mucous membranes, an empty stomach, and some hair loss. Blood samples were taken from the right femoral vein, and  we also took viral and dry swabs samples from her mouth, throat, nose, vagina and anus. No urine was present. We gave her injections of antibiotic and anti-inflammatory drugs as well as IV fluids.

 The team examines Ntobo.

She was injected with a reversal drug at 11:16 am but did not respond to it. We gave her the same does 30 minutes later, again with no response. Her mucous membranes turned white (a sign of lack of oxygen) and so Dr. Jan put an intubation tube down her throat and blew several breaths into Ntobo’s lungs.  Ntobo began breathing again and her mucous became pink, but her temperature started to drop.  We tried to warm her and stimulate her by rubbing her body for 2 hours, but she finally stopped breathing and died at 1:50 pm. 

Watch a video of Ntaribi holding his dying mother:  

From Dr. Jan on September 10: Ntobo’s body was carried off the mountain and brought to our headquarters for a necropsy. We found that Nboto had severe pneumonia with many abscesses in her lungs, and she had also suffered a miscarriage, probably because of the pneumonia. We are all so sad. The Gorilla Doctors and trackers from KRC and the Rwanda Development Board will keep a close eye on the rest of the gorillas in the park to see if any other animals show signs of respiratory disease. 

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