UPDATE: On February 17th, Dr. Ricky successfully administered a second dose of deworming medication and multi-vitamins. Shida was showing some improvement, while still shy and moving slowly, she was feeding more and her hair coat condition was also improving.

START Original Post first published 2/14/2020 –

You may remember Shida from last January, as she was our first snare removal of 2019. You can read about Dr. Fred’s expert rescue, freeing Shida, treating her wounds and reuniting her with her infant HERE. Exactly one year (to the day) later, Dr. Ricky administered a first dose of medication to treat Shida for parasites, once she returned to her group after an absence of several days…

Adult female, Shida, of Mishaya group, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Photo from January 2019 snare removal. Photo © Gorilla Doctors

Clinical Diagnosis: Gastrointestinal parasites

Location: Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda

Gorilla Group: Mishaya, 11 individuals (1 silverback, 5 adult females, 1 sub-adult, 4 infants)

Mountain Gorilla: Shida, adult female

Gorilla Doctors: Ricky Okwir Okello, Fred Nizeyimana, Benard Ssebide

Start Date: January 18, 2020

End Date:  February 13, 2020 (treatment ongoing)

January 18 – 21st: Shida first disappears from Mishaya group on January 18th and does not rejoin until January 21st. Park rangers notify Gorilla Doctors that she is lagging behind her group, seems weak and is feeding less than normal. During her absence from the group, Shida’s infant stays with lead silverback Tinfayo. Shida’s infant is estimated to be around 4 or 5-years-old. We don’t know the exact age because the group disappeared for some time, and when they reappeared in the area, Shida had a baby!

Shida’s infant. Photo by Dr. Ricky Okwir Okello, © Gorilla Doctors

January 23rd: Dr. Ricky and Bwindi park staff conduct a monitoring visit and find Shida emaciated, with significant hair loss and a rough, brownish appearance to her hair. She is feeding and moving with the group, although still lagging behind, and her infant remains with Tinfayo. Dr. Ricky collects fecal samples to examine for parasites.

In addition to possible iron deficiency and Shida’s advancing age (estimated 32 years old), laboratory results confirm a higher than normal parasite load, which may be contributing to her poor body condition, weakness and reduced feeding. An intervention to administer an anthemintic (de-worming) medication via dart is planned for January 28th.

Dr. Ricky successfully darts Shida on January 28, 2020. Photo by Dr. Ricky Okwir Okello. © Gorilla Doctors

January 28th: At 1:30PM, Dr. Ricky, accompanied by Bwindi park rangers, successfully darts Shida with a medication used as treatment for tape worms. A second dose of a different medication to treat for roundworms will be administered several days later to avoid causing gastrointestinal distress, and monitoring of Shida continues until then.

February 13th: Following the devastating lightning strike of Hirwa group, Drs. Benard, Fred and Ricky trek to Mishaya group to check on Shida, the first chance they get. Having left for the field at 6:00AM, they arrive at the group’s location around 9:00AM and find the group high in the trees (nearly 100 feet!), feeding on small fruit that produce a white sap that gorillas love.

The mountain gorillas of Mishaya group were high up in the trees (Chrysophyllum albidum), feeding on fruit. © Gorilla Doctors

Silverback Tinfayo feeding on fruit of the Chrysophyllum albidum tree. Photo by Skyler Bishop. © Gorilla Doctors

Shida, however, is on the ground in dense vegetation, away from the group, and therefore presenting a good opportunity to dart her with medication. Drs. Fred and Ricky quickly prepare the dart, hoping to administer a second dose of de-worming medication and multivitamins.

Drs. Fred and Ricky prep the medication for Shida. Photo by Skyler Bishop. © Gorilla Doctors

Unfortunately, Shida keeps moving, including into thick vegetation where she is essentially hidden, even from Dr. Fred’s expert aim. After nearly five hours of Drs. Fred, Ricky and Benard waiting patiently for her to calm down and join her group (she never does), they decide to try again another day.

As they emerge from the forest in the late afternoon, Dr. Ricky receives a call. Trackers report that lead silverback Busingye, of Busingye group, is lame, using only three limbs. So early the next day, they will head back out – Gorilla Doctors work is never done!

Drs. Fred, Ricky & Benard head out of the forest at the end of a long day. Photo by Skyler Bishop. © Gorilla Doctors

Please check back for updates on Shida and Busingye or ‘Subscribe for Updates’ on this page and get our blog posts sent right to your inbox.

A Note from our Executive Director: Gorilla Doctors is conducting scientific research on the impact of parasites on mountain gorilla health at both the individual and population level in collaboration with our government partners, expert great ape parasitologists from the Czech Republic, and Karisoke Research Center. As seen in this recent case with Shida, parasites can cause significant health issues. Through sample collection (e.g. feces), and analysis of population-level data, we are increasing our understanding of how various factors such as age, sex, location, and group size, may influence parasite load in mountain gorillas. This research will enable us to optimize our treatment protocols so that we may continue saving a species, one gorilla at a time.